Shaun Illingworth: This begins an interview with W. S. Peter Whitestone on July 20, 2006, in Dalton, Massachusetts, with Shaun Illingworth. Mr. Whitestone, thank you very much for having me here today.
W. S. Peter Whitestone: You're welcome.
SI: To begin, could you tell me where and when you were born?
WSPW: Born in New York City, on March 13, 1922.
SI: Can you tell me a little bit about your parents, beginning with their names?
WSPW: My father's name was Walter S. Whitestone. My mother's name was (Beulah Taggart?) Whitestone, and they had another offspring and that was my sister, Betsy. She was born in 1923 in Great Barrington, Mass. [Massachusetts], and then, my mother and father split up, early in the '30s. They got divorced in 1934, I believe. So, then, I lived with my grandmother and grandfather in the lower part of the Bronx, until I went to college, which was in the Fall of '39, after I graduated from Stuyvesant High School, which is downtown in New York City. Now, it's over on the Hudson River, I think. Anyway, then, in the Fall of '39, then, I went to Rutgers, and I went to Rutgers because my father had an uncle who was the controller in GE [General Electric]. ... Then, that made him the number one finance man for GE, and they had a course called the business training course and they had found that the men from Rutgers rated in the top three percent at GE. They also had an engineering field, too, but that's not included in that percentage. ... So, I went off to GE when I came back from the service, but that's later on in the story.
SI: Had you always wanted to go to college?
WSPW: Yes, I assumed I was going to go, yes.
SI: You were in a college prep course.
WSPW: Well, yes. ... In Stuyvesant, it was called a "scientific course," and that's because you got a lot of chemistry and physics, and you even had a shop. I wasn't taking advanced English or something like that, but let's say anything I did was leading towards going to college.
SI: What were your favorite subjects in high school?
WSPW: Math, chemistry.
SI: Did you see yourself going off into a scientific or business career?
WSPW: Business career. When I got to GE, which was in the Fall of ... '46, I guess, the business course was taking an accounting course on Monday night, one year, and another accounting course two years, and I took four years of accounting there at GE, and then, one year, I took business law, which was on Wednesday night, and that was what you took with the course, but, then, they asked me to become an auditor. Well, I'd heard rumors. ... As an internal auditor with GE, you were gone sixty-six percent of the time, and so, when I was interviewed for that, ... [it] was a very short interview, because I said I wasn't interested. ... I mean, I had been away from home for three years. I wasn't directly, you know, away from home; I was at wherever the Army sent me, but so was everybody else. They were in the Army. ... I just decided there's no point in my going another three or four years with GE for the purpose of their whims. So, I quit. So, that ends; that ended in 1949, but I enjoyed playing golf over there, though. [laughter]
SI: It seems that you have been interested in golf for most of your life.
WSPW: Yes. I learned to play when I was seven and played all summer long. ... Then, when I got to high school, I went on the swimming team there. We didn't have a good swimming team; well, we had a fair swimming team. ... Some of the fellows that I swam against there, I can think of one that ended up at Rutgers, [Jerome] Jerry Levin. He was in my class. He was the best swimmer we had, until [Charles J.] Gantner [Class of 1944] came along, which was a couple of years later, and he was probably better than Levin, but Norm Siegel [was also good]. ... Well, I've seen him since, because he's still alive. Levin lives in France, so, you [will] never see him, unless he comes back for a [reunion]. He came back for, I think, our fiftieth anniversary. ... After that, I didn't see him, but Norm's been around for quite awhile and he won the ICAAAA, [Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America, an annual men's competition held at different colleges every year], ... four-hundred-yard medley relay; not medley. Medley, it was not a relay, it was a medley. ... Then, I think, in his synopsis of what he did, [his oral history], he said he was most proud of that, that he was the national champion.
WSPW: Somehow or other, Norm got to be a Class of '43, but he actually was '42. ... [Why] he got mixed up and became '43, well, I think he may have graduated with us, but I'm not sure. Not very many graduated, anyway.
SI: The wartime classes are a little mixed up, because of the acceleration and so forth.
WSPW: Yes, ... and he was one of them, but, you see, when you left the pool, you didn't see him. ... They didn't take the same classes you did. You didn't see him. So, I didn't see him, except at the pool.
SI: You were involved with swimming all four years.
WSPW: All four years, golf, all four years. Golf was very, very minor, because the golf course was about five miles away, over by the stadium, and it wasn't a tremendous thing, nine-hole golf course, but ... nobody ever went out there to practice or anything like that. So, it was just hope. [laughter] We didn't do well.
SI: It was not an official team, or was it?
WSPW: It was an official team, but it just wasn't [prosperous], didn't have any talent. ... The swimming team was much better, because Jim (Riley?) went out, got people that he thought could make a team. ... While I was there, we won four different championships. Most of the meets were at the College [Avenue] Gym, up there on College Avenue. Now, there's a new gym out there where the stadium is, but the one at College Avenue had been built in 1938. So, 1938, and we were going in there 1939, it was a brand-new pool. ... Behind that pool was an open field and that's where the first ... football game with Princeton was played, on that field, right behind the gym on College Avenue.
SI: The stadium had just opened up the year before you came in as well, right?
WSPW: I can't remember when the stadium [opened], probably. I don't remember when the stadium came into existence.
SI: Were they still playing sports on Neilson Field?
WSPW: If they were, I don't remember what they were, unless they might have played soccer there, but I really don't know that, because I wasn't interested in soccer, and so, I can't tell you.
SI: Obviously, you had home meets at that gym, but do you remember some of the away meets that you had and the places that you would go to?
WSPW: With swimming?
WSPW: Well, when I was a freshman, we went to, I don't know, Lehigh it was, and I set the freshman record for swimming the 220, and then, we probably went to Lehigh, we went to, probably, Lafayette. The most peculiar swimming meet that I ever remember was when we went to Columbia, and the reason it was peculiar was because the pool at Columbia was a semi-circle and it was like the Greeks had in their swimming locations, and they had to put boards across. So, let's say this is the thing; they put boards across here, so [that] you had some place to turn against. Otherwise, you'd end up on the stone, marble steps. ... It was just funny, that it was the only one. The rest of them were rectangular. Well, we swam at Pennsylvania, [the] University of Pennsylvania. We also swam at Penn State. I heard, from guys that were a class or two ahead of me, that they went up to West Point and the thing that they loved about West Point was that they got a terrific meal after. ... Our schedule didn't include West Point, so, I didn't get a big meal, but we didn't go traveling too far, mostly down there in New Jersey, and then, also, in, maybe, Pennsylvania, Lower New York, something like that.
SI: Was there any particular rivalry at that time, with the swimming team?
WSPW: Well, we were always losing to Princeton, and they still get beaten by Princeton, as far as I know, although they've got a better team now; they do better. ... They've got a first-class women's coach and she's got ... world leaders and her team will beat anybody. If it doesn't, it's just [because] someone had luck of the draw. ... Some private club out in California, where they swim all day and all night, they would beat the Rutgers team, but it's because they're out there to swim all day long and all night long, whereas, if you go to a college, you're going to try to go to class once in awhile.
SI: Before you were at Rutgers, you were living in the New York City area during the Depression. What was the Depression like for you?
WSPW: Never knew it, never knew it. Sometimes, I talk to somebody and that subject comes up. ... There's a friend of mine, a female, she grew up as a farmer, down in Great Barrington, farmer's daughter, actually, but she said, "We never realized there was a Depression. We had three or four cows, we had horses, we had a good garden, so, we could have all the food we wanted. We never lacked for food," but somebody who lived in the city, that would be different, because they wouldn't have the animals and they wouldn't have the gardens. So, they would be affected by the Depression, because I could remember, then, the Depression, there were men on a line, looking for an apple, you know, one single, lousy apple, because they wanted something to eat, but that wasn't true when you get out into the country. What else?
SI: When you were in high school, what would you do for fun, outside of your studies and your swim team activities?
WSPW: Well, you went back to your neighborhood, wherever that was, and people from Stuyvesant ... came from all boroughs of the city, and so, basically, to answer your question, we played stickball. Do you know what that is?
SI: It is like baseball.
WSPW: Yes, except that the rules are different. We played hockey on roller-skates, on the street, pavement, played poker on the corner, until the cops chased us, and that was about it. I ran into somebody recently, he lives up near Van Cortland Park; you know where that is?
SI: Is it in Queens?
WSPW: No, it's up in the north end of the Bronx, and I don't know ... why the subject came up, but he said, "I live near Van Cortland Park." I said, "Oh, great." In the wintertime, when there was some snow on the ground, a friend of mine [and I] would get on the subway, ... with our sleds, and go up to Van Cortland Park, because there was a golf course up there and you could slide on the golf course, or, if there's no snow, you could go up there and, if the ponds that were on the golf course were frozen, you could skate, and so, we did that. I said, "I never skated at Rockefeller Center." I don't know why, but I never did. ... At night, we played poker with our buddies. ... Well, Monopoly was new, so, we played Monopoly, and I can't remember what else, some other game we played, ... but Monopoly was the big game, because that was brand-new.
SI: Would you say it was a mixed neighborhood of ethnicities?
WSPW: Mostly Irish. ... Well, there were quite a few Italians, particularly if you went west a block, or, rather, east a block, or something like that.
SI: I see from some of the memorabilia around your house that you are a Yankee fan. Did you follow them then?
WSPW: I started following the Yankees in 1936, when Joe D [DiMaggio] became a Yankee, and the stadium was about three miles away. I lived on 141st Street and Third Avenue and Yankee Stadium was 161st Street, over near the Harlem River. ... Across the river from the Yankee Stadium is the Polo Grounds, which aren't in existence anymore, they're gone, where the Giants used to play, ... both the Giants baseball as well as football, both of them. What else?
SI: Did you do much traveling at that time, when you were in high school, to see your family members?
WSPW: No, no. My grandmother and grandfather, with whom we lived, he was a dentist there, in 141st Street, they had had a cottage in Monterey, down here, which is outside of Great Barrington. I think they first went up there in 1909, or something like that. So, by the time I came along, they were already there. So, that's where we spent the summer and there was a nine-hole golf course there, as well as a lake. So, I used the golf course in the morning and ... go swim in the afternoon.
SI: You spent a lot of your summers in this area.
WSPW: Yes, right.
SI: Growing up, did you have any part-time jobs or did you work in the summers, around here?
WSPW: Caddied, that's all, didn't make very much doing that, [laughter] plus, ... most of the people that played pulled or carried [themselves]. You know, they were little bags like that, with about seven sticks in it, and it wasn't a big deal. They were summer people that came in and I guess they just went over there so [that] they got some exercise. What else?
SI: You mentioned that your father was in the Navy during World War I and you showed me his picture.
SI: Do you know anything about his time in the service? Did he ever tell you any stories about that?
WSPW: He was a young kid. I know, when he tried to ... enlist in the Navy, he flunked. So, the guy said to him, "Go eat a couple of bananas and walk around the block and come back and see what's going on." Well, he came back and, ... with the bananas, he added enough weight so [that] he could get into the Navy, but it was actually the Navy Air Corps that he went into. ... I have a scrapbook of his. ... The Salvation Army had a place that you could go to spend the evenings, and, well, the PX [post exchange] took that place in World War II, and the Red Cross, occasionally, would have something, but I don't have any use for the Red Cross. They came up, they announced, big, big announcement, that ... a wagon with a couple of female drivers were going to come up ... with doughnuts and coffee, and we were still in combat. Maybe we weren't in [frontline combat] at that moment. So, everybody that could went down there, to where the wagon was, and, lo and behold, they charged you fifteen cents for a cup of coffee and a doughnut, and, from then on, I said, "Tough." I mean, there was a guy in our regiment that went to Paris. What the hell did he go to Paris for? I don't know what he went to Paris for. [Editor's Note: Mr. Whitestone could be referring to the fact that the Red Cross arranged for emergency leaves for service personnel.] ... If he went to Paris for any good, it was his good, and so, I didn't think too much ... of the Red Cross. ... If I can avoid giving money to the Red Cross, I do, and I did, for a long time, but, then, they put the Red Cross in the; what the heck do they call it? Every city has one. It includes everything, all those charities, and they just piece them out amongst them.
SI: Like the United Way?
WSPW: ... Yes, the United Way.
SI: Chamber of Commerce?
WSPW: Yes, but, otherwise, I wouldn't give anything to the Red Cross, but you get stuck now, because I don't care what you do, some of the money's going to go to the Red Cross, because they proportion it to all the people who want money, and the Red Cross is right up at the top. Once in awhile, I feel that I'm not doing the right thing and some catastrophe comes along, like [Hurricane] Katrina or something like that. Then, I feel better about the money going to the Red Cross, but nobody pressures me to do it. Nobody has anything to say about it.
SI: Do you remember roughly when that incident was, when they charged for the doughnuts and coffee?
WSPW: Well, we were in Germany, so, it was probably ... '44, probably early in '44, but it could have been later. ... No, not early in '44, because we didn't land until ... June 6th; it might have been early '45, but I can't remember what the name of the town was, a little bit of a town.
SI: Would you say most of the men with you had a similar reaction to the Red Cross?
WSPW: I really don't know. I didn't ask them. That's their business and I didn't pay any attention. I didn't care, and I just came away from that with a sour taste in my mouth with regards to the Red Cross, but I know there are a lot of people that don't have any use for the Red Cross, for one reason or another. Whether it's the same reason that I have or not, I don't know, but that's my reason, but, then, on the other hand, I know that, when a catastrophe comes along, they're right there. ... So, after a number of years of floods, catastrophes, hurricanes and whatnot, I said, "Well, the hell with it. I don't care." So, I'd give to the ... United Way and I didn't care. I don't think you can allocate part of your money to a certain charity, with the United Way. I think you give it and they take care of it.
SI: Just before you went to Rutgers, at that time in the world, Hitler was taking over in Europe and starting World War II and the Japanese were expanding in Asia. What did you know about what was happening overseas at that time? Did you follow the news?
WSPW: Well, I certainly knew what was going on. I knew what Lindbergh was doing, and he was being downplayed, because he came back and said, "You people better wake up. Germany's building a hell of a big air corps," and Billy Mitchell was court-martialed back in the '20s, because he kept pushing, he was a general, ... for the Americans to build some more planes for their air force. ... They didn't do it, but I don't know, I guess everybody ... just thought, "Well, sooner or later, we're going to get involved in that," not that the Japan situation [was well-known]. I didn't know anything about that, but I've always blamed Roosevelt for that. Whether I'm right or not, I don't know. I have a brother-in-law who's a staunch Roosevelt man, and you can be a staunch Roosevelt man, [laughter] but, as far as I'm concerned, while he was talking in Washington, they were doing things, like sending aircraft carriers to bomb Midway or Hawaii, whichever they could get to. They didn't get to Hawaii, but they certainly got to Midway, but, also, things were a long ways away then. ... I'd never been out of the country before I got on the boat to go to Europe, and I think that was true of most men. They're going because somebody said, "There's your ticket, there it is; put it on your back and go," and I don't know about the deal going to the Pacific. That was probably something different, because the Japanese were all over the place. They weren't that way over in Europe. ... They wanted Europe, that was what they wanted, and I never thought about it. I can't remember.
SI: You mentioned Lindbergh. He was a very public figure talking about isolationism. Do you remember, in your own neighborhood or among your friends, if there was any discussion of whether we should get involved or not?
WSPW: No, as far as I know, nobody [did]. The neighborhood was just a bunch of happy people that were working for a living and, if the government came along and said, "You're old enough and you're going in the service," they went. Everybody went. ... We didn't have any, let's say, division that came out of that part of the Bronx.
SI: Do you remember if there were any German-American Bund activities in the area?
WSPW: Nothing that I ever heard of.
SI: Were any of the Italians in your neighborhood particularly pro-Mussolini or anti-Mussolini?
WSPW: I don't remember any of them. You know, we were kids and we were doing, what? playing stickball, playing for pennies in the poker games, and somebody else was going to do some fighting. Of course, it all finally got to us, [laughter] but I think we paid little attention, and even in college, because ... I took four years of ROTC [Reserve Officer Training Corps]. Well, I started in '39, in September. So, we had sort of '39 to '40, we had '40 to '41; there were two years. When we finally got involved with Japan, it was because they bombed ... Hawaii, but, other than that, [we did not] pay any attention to what the heck was going on.
SI: Earlier, you explained why you went to Rutgers. Can you tell me a little bit about your first days at Rutgers, what that was like? Do you remember anything about those first days?
WSPW: I can't remember anything specific, just got to meet a lot of guys, either in the dorms or at class. ... I was foreign personnel when it came to going to Rutgers, because I didn't come from New Jersey. [laughter] I knew Newark and I knew Trenton and I knew Bordentown, because an uncle of mine lived there, but, other than that, I didn't know an awful lot about New Jersey. Now, I know a little bit more, because Rob is in Randolph, but, other than that, I can't say that I know too much about Jersey.
SI: Since you lived outside of New Jersey, did you stay on campus on the weekends or did you go home on the weekends?
WSPW: No, I didn't go home for weekends. ... We came to live here in 1950 and a lot of kids went to UMass, which was in ...
WSPW: Amherst, and some of them probably ... [would] come back home, but, I don't know, I never did. All I had to do was get on the train. The train, right there in New Brunswick, goes right ... into Penn Station, no big deal, but I never did. Of course, there were swimming meets on Saturday, if we were going to have a swimming meet, and something else might have been going on, on the campus, that was of interest, so, I stayed there.
SI: Do you remember any other activities, besides swimming, that you were interested in, maybe something that might keep you around on the weekends?
WSPW: Not particularly, didn't go to football games very often, didn't go to basketball games very often. They didn't have a good team. Football team was a good team, for what they [were]. They were playing in the right league. Nowadays, they tried that Big East business and that was a disaster. It still is. ... When I was there, in the early '40s, their record at the end of the year might be something like, oh, six or seven wins and three or four losses. ... Well, we were playing Lehigh, we were playing Lafayette, they played Richmond, they played Maryland. Now, Maryland's a state school. Today, it's a big school, as far as football is concerned, but, then, it wasn't. They didn't travel far, and never played Yale. ... I can't think of any of the Ivy League schools that they ever played, not that it made any difference. ... The only difference would be, if they played an away game, you had to have a way of going. Well, in 1939, '40, '41, there weren't very many people that had cars that would take you up there, if it was West Point or Yale, and Yale had its own problems anyway. They stuck with their Ivy League people. ... They were the best team in the country then, so, I think that's why they stayed that way.
SI: Where did you live when you first came to Rutgers?
WSPW: I was in a dorm for two years, Pell, and what was the other one, right across the way? I can't think of the name of it, and then, I stayed in the fraternity house, DU [Delta Upsilon] Fraternity house, for two years. Now, it's closed down. [laughter] Jesus, we had a lot of drinkers in those days, but, Jesus, ... it wasn't as bad as it was a few years ago, when they closed the darned thing down.
SI: What do you remember about living in the dorms? Was everyone pretty much focused on their studies?
WSPW: Most of them, yes, right.
SI: Compared to today, it was probably pretty tame, but, for the age, was it considered wild?
WSPW: No, I wouldn't say it was wild, and, also, ... the fellows that were in the dorm, more or less, were from New Jersey, and a lot of them would go home over weekends, and I think the reason that they went home was because they might have had a job. So, they'd go home and work a day, a day-and-a-half, or something like that, and go home. ... I'm thinking about a fellow who was in the freshman dorm. ... He came from a little town south of Camden, and I don't remember what the name of the town was. If I saw it on a map, I'd remember it. I don't know.
SI: Was it Blackwood or Collingswood?
WSPW: No, that was not it; can't remember.
SI: I have heard that, when freshmen first came to Rutgers, they were hazed or had to go through an initiation. Do you remember that?
WSPW: We had to wear a hat. What the hell did they call it, a cap?
SI: Is it a dink?
WSPW: Yes, a dinky, but that was the only thing. ... I guess the fraternities did hazing, when they took in members, but, other than that, no.
SI: What attracted you to the DU fraternity? How did you get involved?
WSPW: The fellows who were in it. There were a couple of fellows that were a couple of years ahead of me and they were pretty nice fellows, and I thought they're good people that I'd like to be around. So, I did that. ... Lenny Hanson, who I showed you there, he was president of our class, just three months before he died, and he was elected in May that year. I remember going to English class, and the English class, who the heck is the teacher? Who's the librarian there, at Rutgers?
SI: I am not sure about the librarian. Usually, from the English Department, we hear about Professor McKinney.
WSPW: Well, whatever his name was. Anyway, I guess it was a French class, French. You had to take French, if you didn't have it before, and I had. I had four years of it. I had it in high school, but, anyway, Lenny was in the class, and this is in the English class, though, and it's Professor [Donald] Cameron. Was that his name, Cameron?
SI: Sounds familiar.
WSPW: He said, "Well, I want you to write an essay and I don't care what you write it about. You could write it about a book you read, a movie you've gone to, or something like that." Lenny stands up and says, "Sir?" "Yes?" He says, "I've never been to the movies in my life," and I'll have to say, when I was in high school, a friend of mine, down the street, ... we didn't go to Radio City, because that was too expensive, but we did go to the Roxy's, which was right across the street. ... They had a good floor show, they had good acts that were worthwhile seeing. ... Radio City was about two or three times as expensive, so, we didn't go there.
SI: Was that a movie theater or a vaudeville-type theater?
WSPW: Well, they had both. They had movies. ... Radio City had the best movies that came out for the year. ... As far as the acts that they had, other than the girls [the Rockettes], but any vaudeville acts that they had were topnotch acts; same thing today, I'm sure. I've only been there once since World War II, I guess. That was the Christmas show and I wanted my kids and family to know what Radio City was all about. So, that's why we went down, for that, because, up here, bus companies take buses of people down, take you right down to Sixth Avenue and 51st Street. ... You get out and you walk into Radio City and they tell you, "Well, we'll meet you back here at five o'clock," or something like that, "in the afternoon." It's up to you what you want to do. What they do, I don't know. Some of them probably shop, others probably go over to the skating rink and watch that. It just depends on what you want to do, what you know about New York City.
SI: You told me a little story about being in a class with Leonard Hansen. Are there any other stories that stand out about the classes or professors at Rutgers?
WSPW: My math class. I can't remember this guy's name, but he was probably in his sixties and he reminds me of a farmer from New England. ... He had all sorts of jokes and stories and I can't remember what his name was. ... Oh, one of his phrases was, "Don't you know a watermelon when you see it?" because he was talking about something and that's it. I think it was geometry that I was taking, but I'm not sure, maybe it was trig, one or the other. Whatever it was, it didn't make much difference, but that was his pet phrase and his class was over in that central park [Voorhees Mall] and it comes downs from Queens and goes down across and up to Willie's statue, [a statue of William "the Silent" of Orange], but I don't remember his name.
SI: Who were some of your favorite professors at Rutgers?
WSPW: I don't know. I didn't have anybody in particular.
SI: What was your major?
WSPW: Business administration, and I followed that up by going to GE after I got out of the service.
SI: Were you mostly taking business courses or did you get a chance to take other electives? You mentioned a couple.
WSPW: Well, you had to take certain other courses, but, basically, you were going to take accounting and that's about it. You might have taken cost accounting or something like that. Military science was one, because I took four years of that, and English. I didn't have to take grammar. No, that was in high school. I didn't have to take grammar when I got to high school, because the grammar that I had learned up here, for a year, put me far ahead of all those kids in New York City. They didn't know how to break a sentence down into a noun, a verb and an adverb, and so forth. ... I got a ninety-eight every marking period for the year that I took grammar, but I didn't take grammar [in high school]. ... That was ninth grade, something like that, ninth grade.
SI: That was before you went to Stuyvesant.
SI: Where did you go before you went to Stuyvesant?
WSPW: The name of the school was (Clark?) and it was not a prep school, it was a junior high school. ... When I went to New York City, I was in eighth grade. I'd been in Monterey for a couple of months, and then, ... we moved back down to New York. ... Depending on your marks, and mine were pretty good, they put you in either RA or RB. RA was seventh grade and you did seventh grade in a six-month period. Rapid advance is what it might have been called. Eighth grade was another one and ninth grade, you went your whole year for ninth grade. ... Seventh and eighth grade, ... you could gain a whole year, and I remember meeting a fellow who was an accountant, here in Pittsfield. ... I don't know which one he went to, [does not] make much difference, but he said he went to all those advanced classes. He went to Columbia, I think, as a college, and he was only sixteen when he went into Columbia. He said, "Jesus, I was like a frog out of water. ... Everybody was two years older than I am. ... I'd never do that again. That was a mistake," but that's the way the darned thing went. Now, there was another school on 23rd Street; can't remember what the heck that was. I know you had to take a test to make that, so that when you came out of [high school] ...
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SI: Please, continue. You were talking about the classes.
WSPW: Yes. You were going to nine classes, and, as far as school was concerned, you'd gone through junior high school. Now, you have an opportunity; I don't know what the name of the school was. There's only one school [like it] in New York City. You had to take a test to get into it. It was on 23rd Street. It was in a building about twenty-three stories high and you could do your whole high school career in two years. Well, gee whiz, ... it sounded good, you could get out of school two years ahead of time. This guy that I knew, he said, "That would have been the biggest mistake you ever made if you went there, because you were socially non-existent." So, it was better to do it the other way.
SI: I have heard that from some other men who went through the New York City school system and came to Rutgers. Some were as young as, I think, fifteen, or maybe even fourteen.
SI: I think they came out of the Horace Mann School.
WSPW: Yes. I know the name, but I don't know anything about it.
SI: You were seventeen when you entered Rutgers, right?
WSPW: I went ... in '39. I worked for six months before that, because I graduated from ... the junior high in January. I'd gained a half of seventh grade. I gained a half a year. So, I graduated in January instead of waiting until June. So, I had a whole six months to do something. I ended up by working, and then, [I entered Rutgers University] in the fall, the Fall of '39, and then, from there, it was just four years at Rutgers.
SI: Did you feel that you were the right age or too young?
WSPW: No, that was fine. I was just as old or as young as anybody else.
SI: Can you tell me a little bit about ROTC and what you remember about that?
WSPW: Well, I don't know why I took it for four years, but I guess that I just ... didn't think that it was the worst subject in the world, so, I might just as well take it. ... I thought that the teaching was good. The best teaching that I ever had in my life, though, bar none, was after I got out of college and I went to Fort Benning, Georgia. ... It was impossible to fault them for anything. If they were telling you that there were some tanks coming up a road and you were in an antitank unit, you had to wait for it, well, when they said there were tanks coming up the road, you could hear the damned things coming up the road, and you hadn't heard them before that. All of a sudden, there they were, clanking along, making a lot of noise, and then, I found out one of our class[mates] got out of college in January of our senior year, instead of [May]. He went through the summer before and he got out of college six months ahead of us, the rest of us, and he was one of the instructors in the map reading course. Well, we congregated around him, because we could find out something, the way they were going to do this, that or the other thing. ... One thing he told us was that, and this has to do with the map reading class, they made you memorize what you were going to say for an hour, so that there wasn't any error. ... Then, when they decided that you'd had enough memorizing and you were okay to teach a class, then, you'd have to be up on the podium there, and then, the Colonel, who was in charge of the map reading course, would come in and sit in the back row and listen to you and make comments about whether you're good, bad or indifferent. So, they had somebody checking on you every time, but Fort Benning, Georgia, I don't know how the other schools were, but Fort Benning, Georgia, was a great school, as far as teaching.
SI: Do you remember his name, the map reading instructor?
WSPW: [laughter] I can picture him. I don't know whether it was a Brian or not; ... Briggs.
SI: Leonard Briggs?
WSPW: Lenny Briggs, yes. Did you meet him?
SI: Yes, I interviewed him.
WSPW: Did you?
WSPW: Okay, Lenny Briggs, that's what his name [was], yes.
SI: I should know this, but did your class go to summer camp or did you go directly to Fort Benning?
WSPW: The year before did, because they'd never had that experience, but ours went. ... I guess we got a couple, three weeks, or something like that, out, after we graduated, what was left, and then, we went. There were forty in the class in ROTC, and, by the time the end of the war had come on, eighteen of those forty were dead. Our class took it on the chin, and, probably, 1944 did, too, but 1943 went down the list of people that were on that plaque. ... Well, the number one guy in our class was Mal Schweiker, [Malcolm A. Schweiker, Jr.], and did you ever hear that?
SI: Yes, I have, yes.
WSPW: And he was a DU, Phi Beta Kappa, in ceramics, believe it or not, not, you know, English or something like that, and his brother became the Senator from Pennsylvania. He had a sister, which I never knew, but there were three of them. All of them were Phi Beta Kappa. ... I saw Lenny Briggs after the war, at one of these reunions, and I said, "What ever happened to Schweiker?" I knew he was killed. He says, "It's a funny story." He said, "I was in Hawaii," and he said, "My name was called, 'Get the hell up on that truck, because you're moving out.' So, I get up on the truck. Next thing I know, they say, 'Get off the truck.' So, everybody got off the truck," and then, I don't know what happened after that, but he was sent out somewhere. ... In his travels in the South Pacific, ... he saw Mal Schweiker and Mal Schweiker was an aide to ... some general. Who that was, I have no idea, and they were out in the jungle, in a canvas tent, I guess. The tent was bombed and everybody in the place was killed, including Schweiker, and that's how I heard about him. Some of the other people that I knew that were in my class of ROTC, they were ... probably second lieutenants, first lieutenants, in the 29th Division or the 88th Division or some damn [thing]. They were just regular GIs. They were [there] with a bar on their shoulder or something like that; other than that, no.
SI: Do you have any other stories about people who were killed during the war that you remember, anything you want to add for the record?
WSPW: Well, my brother-in-law, he would have been my brother-in-law, [John Thomas] Jack Everett; ... I think when we were at OCS [Officer Candidate School] class, he was number one in the class and he went to the Fourth Division. ... I don't know when he started dating my sister, because she went to college in Philadelphia, Beaver, and he was up at Rutgers. ... He might have seen her on a dance weekend or something like that, I don't know, but I didn't know that they were having a romance. ... He went through Camp Kilmer to go overseas with the Fourth, just before Thanksgiving of '43, and he got a hold of her, asked her to meet him, and he was going to go AWOL [absent without official leave], over the fence or something like that, which he did. ... I don't know anything about the meeting except that he gave her a diamond, and then, he went back over the fence and she went home. That was the last time they ever saw each other, and, of course, he wasn't the only one that same thing had happened to, I'm sure, for a lot of people who wanted to tell somebody, "I love you, but, so, here's a diamond ring and I hope you'll remember me if anything happens to me," something like that. He'd get a "Dear John" letter that way. So, off they went, that was it, but, in this little book, I didn't know this was in here.
SI: Just for the record, this a little notebook that you kept during the war
WSPW: Yes, I don't know why I did, but, anyway, I did. At least it kept [track of] where I was going, but I found something in here that I didn't know, because I didn't know Jack Everett was buried in Normandy, but, after the war; he lived in, down near Camden. What the hell's the name of the town down there? I can't remember what it was, [Haddonfield, New Jersey]. Anyway, he was returned over and buried there, and, somewhere in here, I saw a gravesite and that was his gravesite. It doesn't say so, but I have no other person. He was killed ... with the Fourth Division at St.-Mere-Eglise and I heard, I think Lenny (Lesner?) told me, the circumstances of his being killed. He was killed on the 8th of June and he had made it very easily, I guess, inland there. There was a lot of water, but, yes, "St.-Mere-Eglise, number one, Grave 197, Row Ten, Platoon A," and I've never been there, so, I don't know. I just assumed that ... was his place. He was a platoon lieutenant and the hedgerow country was there. You know what the hedgerows are? ... The Germans decided to hold out the white flag, so, he assumed they were going to give up, and, of course, those hedgerows are not very big, only a hundred yards square or something like that. So, he went out to meet them. That was a big mistake, because he never came back. They machine gunned him and killed him. Other than that, other people, I didn't know the circumstances of ... how they were killed, but most of them were killed in Europe, rather than the South Pacific.
SI: Looking back, how well prepared do you think you were by your ROTC experience?
WSPW: Well, I had a nice job when I got in the 95th Division. ... I wasn't in combat; I never fired a shot. ... I was a chemical officer, but that didn't mean anything. ... We did that once or twice and that made me motor officer, and I think I was also ... in charge of the kitchen, too. The sergeant was there a heck of a lot sooner than I was. I figured he knew what he was doing. I didn't. [laughter] At least he knew how to scramble eggs, to make them palatable, because he put some grape jelly or something in them. He'd roll the eggs up and have grape jelly in them. ... One day, one of our [senior officers], not (Bacon?), but the colonel who was before that, he would sit at the table and he had a little stove right there, like this, and he would heat the water and the coffee up, so that it ... must have been 220 degrees, hotter than hell. Well, he left, and then, this (Bacon?) came in and he says, "I don't like the way you're making coffee. Where's your sergeant? Get him up here." So, he and I went up to see the Colonel one day. He gave us, ... "This is how you make coffee." Well, we didn't make it to his satisfaction. So, he called us up again and chewed us out for not making it the way he told us to. So, I stayed out of that one; probably, I shouldn't have. I stayed out of that one. ... He didn't chew the Sergeant out. He just said, "This is the way, and I want my instructions followed." So, I let the Sergeant do it and, after that, we never heard anything more about it, and the Sergeant never made it to the States. When we were going across the Rhine River on the pontoons, coming back home, he was hit in the arm by a .22 and he ended up ... going to the hospital and, hell, never saw him again, and that was in June and the division was broken up, I guess I want to say October or November, when we were down in ... Mississippi, but, anyway, funny things happened.
SI: How was he hit in the arm with a twenty-millimeter in June?
WSPW: A .22, no, a .22 bullet is what [hit him]. I wasn't there. I mean, he was riding in a truck somewhere up ahead of me, ... or behind me somewhere, and I said, "Where the hell is;" I've forgotten his name. "Where is he?" "Oh, he got hit by a bullet out there as we crossed the river." "Where is he?" "Well, he went to the hospital." That took care of that, never saw him again.
SI: This is after the war was over.
WSPW: Yes. We were on our way home.
SI: It was just an accident.
WSPW: Yes, you know, but that was typical of things, you know. The Army was a life that you got to know somebody and somebody that you trust, if they were in combat or that he was going to do a job that he was supposed to do. You never thought about it, but, by golly, if he was killed, there was somebody else that took his place. That's one thing about the Army. [laughter] They just keep filling up spots.
SI: Did you develop the feeling that you were replaceable?
WSPW: Never even thought about it, because I wasn't getting shot at. The only thing that was getting shot at me were "eighty-eights" [eighty-eight-millimeter artillery] in the morning. The Germans, when we were at Saarlautern, [Germany], fired eighty-eights at seven o'clock, every morning. So, if you were walking about the streets at seven o'clock, you might get hit by some shrapnel. Then, when we left town, in jeeps or whatever we had to drive in, when we were supposed to be going up to the Bulge and being replaced by the Fifth Division in Saarlautern, you had to go ... out of Saarlautern in a situation where one road came this way, another road came that way, and they met there, and then, were one going across the valley. Well, they had that junction zeroed in and they were dropping air [burst] rounds on it, and I can remember looking up and watching one explode over my head. Later on, I said, "What the hell did you do that for?" At least if you kept your head down, you had a helmet on, it might have saved you, if you got hit in the head. Nobody that I know of got hit going out of there. Luck, that's what it was, luck.
SI: To go back to Fort Benning, you mentioned that it was really great training, some of the best training you ever had. What was so effective? Was it just that they made it very realistic or was it the way they did it, the way they taught?
WSPW: Well, when they were using and explaining the use of a machine gun, whether it was a fifty-caliber or a thirty-caliber, water-cooled or one that ... every platoon had, which was an air-cooled, they showed you how to use it, and so forth, and somebody had to take part of it, to care for it. All that was explained to those people, that that was their job, to take care of this machine gun, or whatever it happens to be. Then, you learned how to use it, and somebody was always doing that, because they were always firing it before we got to combat. ... At Benning, they set up hypothetical [scenarios]. Now, Benning is for people they hope are going to be officers. So, you're trying to learn how to use all these weapons, because they don't stop at one. You use all these weapons and how they teach you to use them. ... So, they'll put a squad of men on a field and sit there and say to you, "How many men are on the field?" "Well, there are twelve men in a squad." "How many men are on the field?" "Well, four, five, three, two." Then, they all stand up and you've got twelve men, and they were all camouflaged. So, they did by example when it came to things like that, and the story about the tanks was that that's just the way they taught that particular use of a tank. The tank was coming over the hill, coming towards your unit. You could hear it clanking along the road, ... but the guy that was in front of the stands, with about maybe a thousand men, he was telling the story about why these tanks are coming up. It was a situation there that he'd [explain], and then, he'd tell you, "Now, you can hear the tanks coming up over the hill." Well, as soon as he said that, the tanks started coming up over the hill, and he did that all the time. ... When you go to college, ... they don't do anything like that. [laughter] They don't use anything. They just put it in one ear and out the next, and then, say, "Go study it," or learn about it at a class, in a textbook, but not when you're down there. It's so much better.
SI: You graduated from Rutgers and received your commission in May of 1943.
WSPW: No, we had to go to OCS to make it. Everybody had to go to OCS to get that. I got my commission in the Fall of '44, yes.
SI: Do you remember anything about your graduation from Rutgers?
WSPW: Yes, I had poison ivy. [laughter] ... We had a problem, a night problem, for the ROTC class, a week or two before graduation, and we were crawling through this crap and I didn't know what it was. It turned out to be poison ivy. I got poison ivy all up my arm. So, I was all bandaged up. That was the only thing I remember about it, [laughter] and there weren't very many that graduated. ... I think I've seen a graduation program and I think there were about 150-some-odd men. Well, when we went in, in '39, it seems to me that our class was the largest class, up to that point, and there were over five hundred. Attrition took a lot of them out, but, also, a lot of them [went into service]. I had a roommate, (Rob Monahan?). ... He was a class ahead of me, because he'd gone to Delaware for a couple of years, came from Ocean City, and, jeez, Pearl Harbor came and, within two weeks, he was in the Navy, and there were a lot of people like that. They were gung ho. Well, I had the ROTC, so, ... I could stay there for another couple of years, get my education, which I thought was important. So, I didn't care about doing that and I didn't really care about getting killed, either. ...
SI: We skipped over Pearl Harbor. Do you remember where you were when you heard the news about Pearl Harbor being attacked?
WSPW: Yes, very easily. I had a date with a girl who was going to school with my sister and she was at Skidmore College. ... It was not a big deal, except there was a dance and dinner and stuff like that, and I think it was one of the first times, ... maybe the second time, that I'd gone away from the campus on something like that. I think, in all of my career at Rutgers, I don't think I left for that kind of a date [often]. Another girl that went to Hood College, down in Maryland, I went down there for a weekend with her and she was somebody that Betsy had gone to school with. They were in pretty tough shape when they asked me to go. Anyway, I left Skidmore, Saratoga Springs, I'll say about six o'clock at night, on Sunday night, and I get on the train and I think I had to go to Albany and change trains there for what was called the Empire [State] Express. The Empire Express was one of the speediest trains that the New York Central had at that time. So, I was sitting there with a gentleman on my side and we got out of Albany and he says, "Well, I guess I'll go see how the war is going." I said, "What?" and he says, "I'll go see how the war is going." I said, "What war?" and he told me about what had happened at Pearl Harbor, and that was seven o'clock at night. The whole day had gone, but we'd been doing things, luncheons, well, I don't know what else, but I know we spent the day doing other things, and the next thing [I know], there had been a war declared, to make those Yankees behave. So, that was why I [remember]. Then, I can't remember, when we got back down to New Brunswick, just exactly what happened down there. I went back to New Brunswick. I probably went down to New York, and then, went down ... to Pennsylvania Station, went down and went back to the DU House and went to bed, probably about midnight or something like that.
SI: Do you remember any kind of reaction on campus or in talking to any of your fraternity brothers about it?
WSPW: I don't remember any, no. ...
SI: Do you remember how you felt at the time or how you reacted?
WSPW: No. I guess it was just going to be, because everybody else was going to be in the same boat. That was the one thing about World War II. ... There weren't any, a lot, of conscientious objectors. It wasn't like when the people were going up to Canada [during the Vietnam War]. Everybody was going and they were volunteering to go into the service, whether it was the Air Corps or whether it was the Navy or you name it, and that's what they wanted to do and they couldn't wait to go. They just figured, "Well, I'm going to be in this, I might as well go. Why wait to be drafted? I'll enlist." So, they did.
SI: Did you notice changes around Rutgers pretty soon after?
WSPW: Well, a lot less people, because ... some of them were going to graduate, and, in the first two years of graduation, there were noticeably less people there, but I didn't know that Rutgers was in such sad shape, financially, and so were a lot of other colleges in the United States, but I had no idea that was true. I found a bill. I don't know where I found it, but, somewhere in these papers, there's a bill. I think it was for my freshman class and the bill was for five hundred dollars, or thereabouts, a little over five hundred dollars, and that was the bill for the first semester. It paid for my room at Pell. Then, there was a fee, some sort of a fee, not per class, but a fee.
SI: A student fee?
WSPW: Yes, that was included in there. I can't remember what else, but, anyway, it totaled five hundred-and-some-odd dollars, but the whole business was; ... well, it was five hundred dollars for the year, not a semester. ... I said the semester, but I was wrong, because I know it wasn't a thousand dollars for a year to go to school. Now, I know somebody, ... she married a German who was a Luftwaffe pilot. He came over here ... when he could get out of Dresden, which was where he was working, and he escaped and he wanted to go to Princeton. Why, I have no idea, but, anyway, so, he went to Princeton. ... He had been a German youth [Hitler Youth?], twelve years old, and right through the time that he ran out of gas, so [that] his airplane couldn't fly. So, they took him off the airplane, but, anyway, he figured he could go to Princeton by just walking in and saying, "I want to go," and that was going to cost him five hundred dollars a year. Well, he went down there and he found out it was more than five hundred dollars and it was ... more than just walking in, and I suppose a lot of people found that out, after they came over here from Europe, but, no, I don't remember that. Everybody was going to go into the service, one way or another, and so, you were just another one of the mob that was going to go into the service. The next thing is, what were you going to end up in when you went in? Was it going to be the infantry? Was it going to be the Air Corps or the Navy or tanks, or you name it? and, sometimes, you got a choice. My brother-in-law, who went to Bucknell, graduated Spring of '43, he went into the Marines as a lieutenant, and I asked him, I don't think I asked him, I think I waited until he died, and I said, "What the hell was Jack doing by enlisting or going with the ... Navy and becoming a Marine officer?" ... My sister couldn't tell me and his daughter can't tell me. I never knew why, because all you had to do was read the papers and you knew damn well that the Marines were right there, first thing, if they were going to invade an island in the Pacific. ... I think his story was that he left Seattle on a boat with the Fourth Marine Division, and, evidently, he was an artillery observer. ... Oh, they went to Iwo Jima. They were on the ocean for sixty days before they got there, sixty days. Holy smokes, you'd be nuts by the time you did [arrive], or be dead. So, he was out in the boat for about four days after they invaded Iwo Jima, and whoever the uppers [officers] were told him that he was going to go in on the beach. They wanted an observer on the beach to ... direct fire. So, he went in on the beach and he was hit in the stomach by a grenade, or, no, a shell hit him, and then, they didn't know who he was for another five days, because it hit his dog tag, split that in half. So, they called him by his middle name, but he was in the hospital in Brooklyn for at least a year, with operations that they had to perform there, but I never could figure out [why]. You know, it's one thing to do it, say, "Okay, I'm going ... to be in the service," and you don't volunteer. I can remember, that was one thing that the, ... he was a major, one of the instructors at ROTC, said to the class, probably in our third year, "Don't ever volunteer for anything in the service. If somebody picks you out, that's different. ... Don't volunteer, because what they're going to ask you to do probably isn't something that they would do themselves. They say, 'I'll give it to this guy.'" What else?
SI: We talked about Fort Benning. How physically intense was Fort Benning? Did they try to whip you into shape?
WSPW: No, we were all in shape. We were all in shape. ... At that age, everybody is. Now, for instance, I say that, and we went to Alaska, 1998, or something like that, '88, and we heard a speech about the men who went up there. Fifty thousand men went to Alaska in ... 1895, '6, '7 and '8, because of gold in Dawson City, [Yukon, Canada]. They were all young men. The number of men that died out of that fifty thousand was very few. They died for other reasons, but, for the most part, they survived, because they were healthy. Well, the same thing is true in the Army, or the Navy. Everybody was healthy, they were young. You know, kids might have been eighteen or nineteen and just made it in by lying or something like that. So, they survived.
SI: I have heard that the instructors at Fort Benning were particularly tough on officer candidates. Did you find that to be the case?
WSPW: No, I didn't think that they were tough. ... They did their job and they were well trained to do their job, but I didn't think that they were [tough]. They weren't sleeping next to you and trying to get you to do this, that or the other thing, that's for sure. It was no different than going to college, except that the instruction was that much better. At least as far as I was concerned, it was.
SI: Did you ever consider going to a different branch of the Army or even going into a different service?
WSPW: No, I was there, and so, I just kept going, like being in a river. "Here you are, go down this river."
SI: What was your next assignment, after you graduated from Fort Benning and were commissioned? You were commissioned at the end of the training in Fort Benning, right?
WSPW: Right, right. ... I think I went to Camp Wheeler, and Camp Wheeler was just south of Atlanta, Macon, Georgia, and I was there for six weeks and the purpose of that six weeks was to teach me how to teach. So, I did that, and then, the next thing I knew, I went from there to Camp Blanding in Florida, outside of Jacksonville, and was one of the cadre there, for at least one session of men coming in. ... They happened to come from New York and Long Island and you were teaching them to be GIs. That's all, taught them how to use the rifles, throw a grenade, run a machine gun, you know, whatever it happened to be, but they were all infantry.
SI: Were you the drill instructor for a specific training company?
WSPW: ... No, they had it divided up, so that people were in companies. So, you were in a company. You had a platoon under you, or you had a company under you, ... four or five lieutenants and a captain, and you just made sure that they were the ones that got the training. That's what they were there for.
SI: Do you remember anything specifically that you instructed people in?
WSPW: I had to instruct them and assure them [laughter] in the machine gun. I'm walking down the [path]. I've got a class at nine o'clock or eight o'clock. My company commander says to me, "Hey, Whitestone." "Yes." "So-and-so can't take the class, so, you've got to take the class," and I said, "Okay," and I had to find out what the class was. Well, it was the use of a machine gun and I had not only one class, I had a double class. It was a four-hour class and there were a thousand guys in there, not only our company, but three other companies. So, we had a thousand men in the stands, learning how to use a machine gun. ... I didn't know I was going to do that. So, I looked at, got the GI thing ...
SI: The manual?
WSPW: The manual, and looked at it and saw what the headline said and said, "Okay, I'll use those headlines," and that took care of the first hour. [laughter] Then, some son of a gun came up to me between classes, when we had a break, started asking me questions. Well, not very many people asked questions. They just listened. ... This guy, he's bending my ear and I can't get back to this thing, to find out what I'm going to talk about for the next hour. He finally left. Well, while he was walking up into his seat, I was looking again to see, "Well, now, where am I now?" Found out, "Oh, there." So, I looked at the chapter headings and went from there. We got through it. Nobody yelled at me, but I remembered what they taught me at Benning. The same thing happened when I went to the division, which was another one. I had to teach a class on map reading and the Colonel, ... he was a lieutenant colonel, [was there] and this was just for, I don't know, ... probably two hundred men, wasn't any more than that. So, I gave them this. I remembered exactly what Lenny Briggs had said about map reading and I probably was as close to his speech as it could be, if I could remember it over a six-month period. [laughter] ... When I got through, the Colonel came up to me. He says, "That was fantastic." He says, "I never [heard] anything better." I never admitted that I stole it right out of Fort Benning. [laughter] Then, I left there.
SI: These were raw recruits that were coming in.
WSPW: The 66th Division was not. I don't know how long that had been [in training]. The one at Blanding, Florida, had done that. They were recruits that came right in off the street and they were learning to be GIs, but all these others were assigned to the 66th Division.
SI: That was your next assignment.
WSPW: And that was the next assignment, except that we only stayed there three or four months. Well, the Army needed more men over in Europe, so, they started taking men out of the division and sending them to Europe, and I heard that; one of the men in the 66th Division was a major, who his name was ... Pabst, and did you ever hear of Pabst beer?
SI: I have heard of Pabst Beer.
WSPW: All right, Pabst Beer. He was supposed to be one of the Pabsts of Pabst Beer, and, on Christmas Eve 1944, he was on a ship going from England to France. Whether it ... got hit by a submarine or what, I don't know, but, anyway, the ship went down and he was out in the water, trying to save people. ... He saved as many as he could and got as many ... out of the water and onto rafts, but, then, he just collapsed out of fatigue and that was the end of him, but they lost practically a whole battalion. That's nine hundred men.
SI: Was that the [SS] Leopoldville?
WSPW: I don't know that name.
SI: I have heard about that incident, the ship sunk on Christmas Eve. They had to send the division away from wherever they were originally going to send it to recuperate.
WSPW: Oh, I never heard. ... By that time, I was in Germany, with the 95th Division, had been there with them since October 18th, I think. So, I was long gone. I just heard this story, but how it occurred or anything about it, I didn't know.
SI: You were briefly with the 66th Infantry Division.
WSPW: Yes, it wasn't very long, a month or two, and then, the next thing you know, we were on our way ... across the ocean.
SI: Describe the process of being sent over as a replacement, the voyage over, then, getting into England. Were you sent over as a replacement or did you join the 95th before it went over?
WSPW: No, the 95th went over [prior to that].
-------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE TWO--------------------------------------
SI: This continues an interview with Mr. W. S. Peter Whitestone on July 20, 2006, in Dalton, Massachusetts. I was just asking you to describe the process of going overseas. Do you remember the voyage overseas and getting on the ship?
WSPW: Yes. We were up on the Hudson River somewhere, can't remember what the name of the camp is, but, anyway, ... we didn't stay there but four or five days. ... Then, when we get on the, I don't know whether we got on a train or what, but, anyway, we went down to Lower Manhattan and there were two boats in the piers down there. One of them was the Queen Elizabeth. Now, that's the big one. That's the first Queen Elizabeth. That'll handle about eighteen thousand troops. [laughter] The other one was the Mauretania. Now, that handled about twelve [thousand]. So, we lucked out and got the Mauretania. Both ships are fast enough to outpace submarines. So, off we went. Well, of course, there's a lot of entertainers onboard with the USO [United Service Organizations]. So, we had entertainment and we went to [the] Firth of Clyde, which goes into Glasgow, and, as far as the trip was concerned, we made it in six days and no big deal, no problems at all.
SI: What were your quarters like on the ship?
WSPW: I don't know. I don't remember. Probably, it was a hammock, but I can't remember. Maybe it was a bunk bed, maybe two or three bunk beds; I'm not sure. Then, we got on a train, went down to Southern England, stayed there a couple of weeks, oh, and I left New York City on my father's birthday. That's how I can remember, August 7, 1944. So, then, we got down to; I don't know what the name of the town is, a little bit of a town, not too far from Southampton. ... Eventually, I think it was two weeks after that, that I arrived there, my name was called and we went down to Southampton, got on a Norwegian ship. Well, the first thing you notice is that you have two meals a day on the British ships, the Mauretania; fish is ... in both of them. Well, this one, I don't know what the name of it was, out of Norway, well, we had pastry in the morning and pastry in the evening. It was great, and I remember that. I slept on the deck, as a matter-of-fact. So, we go across the Channel, and you have to get off that boat and [get] into a small boat, which were the ones that they showed, the landing craft. They take you into some temporary wharfs that they'd built up, and so, you walk in, maybe a couple of hundred yards, so [that] you don't get wet, and then, onto the beach, and then, up the beach and onto the top of the bluff, overlooking the Channel. Everything was fine. So, that night, [the] moon is beautiful. It's a beautiful night. The stars are out, moon's out, clouds are all over the place, but they're beautiful; so, welcome to France. So, we all go to bed. Well, I had a bedroll, but I decided, with all that clear weather out there, I'm not going to do anything about the tent and dig around the edge of the tent. In fact, I didn't even put up the tent, and so, I went to bed, went to sleep. The next morning, I woke up, [there] must have been that much water in the bottom of the ...
SI: A few inches.
WSPW: Yes, Jesus, and I wasn't the only one, right. [laughter] There were guys all over the place, everybody, and then, we had fires over [there, as] big as half this room, and everybody was out there with a blanket or something, getting them dried, and it took two or three days to do it. ... "Bed-Check Charlie" came over [at] about five or six o'clock at night, when it was dark, and he must have been; [laughter] he wasn't that high up. He could see us down there, never dropped any bombs on us. ... I said, "Gee, welcome to France. This is great. I'm soaked, and everything I own is soaked, too." ... We got the hell out of there, and my list here doesn't tell much about going across France.
SI: You were still a replacement at that time.
WSPW: Yes, we were replacements, yes, right. When we got to Verdun, I had pneumonia and went into the hospital and I ran into a lieutenant who said, "What are you?" and I said, "A lieutenant." He said, ... "What have you got for armament?" I said, "A carbine." He says, "Throw the goddamned thing away." He says, "It's no damn good." He says, "I came over the hill with this carbine in my hand and there's a German coming the other way, shooting at me. So, I pumped six gunshots into this German, never stops him at all." He says, "If you get a hold of an M-1," he says, "by golly, that'll stop him." So, that was the last I saw of him, but he had been in Pearl Harbor, and he told me that he woke up in the morning, when all the bombs were going off in Pearl Harbor, and said, "What the hell's going on?" Well, he found out, and nobody had any ammunition. The ammunition dump, which was a building, was locked up. So, he went down with, I don't know, a hammer or an axe, or something, and he broke the lock to get in, so that he could give out ammo to the men that were around him, for which he got arrested and they charged him. They were going to give him a court-martial for doing that. Well, I don't know what the circumstances were. When I saw him, he was in France and he had not been court-martialed yet. I guess it was a case of getting out of Hawaii and away he went. ... So, then, every few days, we would move on the way east and we finally ended up in a town, no, at a castle that was owned by the Vanderbilts. It was in a little town by the name of Malesherbes, M-A-L-E-S-H-E-R-B-E-S, and it was a nice castle. It wasn't kept up or anything like that, but it was about twenty miles west of Fontainebleau. So, we went there and, you know, you're just hanging around, because you're waiting to be called to go to someplace or to join some division, or something like that. ... Well, along came a weekend and some of us got together and said, "Well, the hell with this. If we're not going to get called now, for Saturday and Sunday, we might just as well go to Paris." Okay, so, we started walking and we finally got a ride, when we're near Fontainebleau, on a truck. They were going to Paris, so, they took us to Paris. So, we entered Paris on a two-and-a-half-ton truck, which was loaded with furniture, but they drove us around the city. We went by the Eiffel Tower, we went by the Champs-Elysees, we went around the Louvre and all those things, and so, at least we got to see Paris, and we went back down to the town. Well, by the time we did that, it was raining. We ended up in a barn. So, at least we were dry, and then, we finally got it over to the castle again, and we were not AWOL, because they hadn't called our names. So, we waited another week. Then, the same thing happened again. [laughter] Nobody called our names, so, we just stayed right there, and, finally, they called our names and we kept moving up. ... Oh, I know, at the castle, [I] saw Dinah Shore. She came along there and she gave us a concert. Then, [I] went up to Verdun, and that's where I met the lieutenant that had broken open the ammo ... in Hawaii, and I was in the hospital there for a week, with pneumonia. Then, we went halfway down to Nancy, France, and, down there, ... we had a concert by Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, right out in the open, like anywhere else. So, then, the next day, we went down outside of Nancy. Well, Nancy, jeez, we heard that the Germans weren't any farther than a stone's throw out of town, so, you've got to be careful walking around Nancy. ... In Paris, at night, they were still shooting. Somebody was shooting up above our heads. It was dark enough so [that] they couldn't aim at you, but that lasted for a good week, I guess. Well, we'd left by then. So, now, we're on our way to Nancy. Well, ... we went down to Nancy, then, we went back to Verdun on a truck, and we went back down towards Nancy, and it was some sort of a field down there that was taking men in, and, jeez, it rained again. [laughter] A two-and-a-half-ton truck's coming in to get men and take them out to a division; [the] mud was that deep, holy smokes. ... Another fellow from Hudson, New York, he said to me, "Pete, ... we're not going to do anything here, so, let's go into town." I said, "Okay," because they hadn't told us we couldn't go into town. So, we walked into town and, as we're walking into town, getting into the town, I see a girl, a teenager, maybe, and a child with her, up ahead of us. ... We get up there and we're looking for a restaurant, to eat. So, I asked her, in what French I had, ... where there was a restaurant that we could get a meal, and she told me, she said, "Come along with me. I'm going up there, and you go around the circle and on the other side of the circle, or square, there's a restaurant, and then, after that, come around the corner and I will be at a photography shop that's run by my father." So, we went and, instead of having a GI meal, we had a good meal. Then, we went around the corner and, there, the girl was and she said, "How about taking your pictures?" So, both of us had our pictures, but I don't think my picture is [here], not in this room, but I've got it somewhere. I had a mustache then, and that's one thing I remember about the picture. Well, I sent it to my mother and she said, "Why don't you have a picture taken without a mustache?" So, [I] went back down to the photographer. He took the mustache off, ... sent it to my mother. So, she was happy about that, but there was another guy we met along the way and he ran into a colonel. ... I don't know who the hell colonel it was. He was a Frenchman, but whether he was an FFI [French Forces of the Interior, French Resistance forces inside France] Colonel, I'm not sure, but, anyway, ... this was in Nancy and he decided he'd go out with some FFI guys. There was no Army around there at all; he's just going with them. Well, they came upon one of those massacres that the Germans pulled on the people. So, they got their tails hidden and they got out of there in a hurry, because the Germans were massacring anybody that they could. So, they left and went back. I said, "Well, I'm not going to go see that colonel. [laughter] He wants to take us out and fight for him; the heck with that." So, we went back out and stayed at the camp and stayed there, and then, [laughter] there was a fellow that I had known in Camp Blanding, which was a long time ago, and I saw him and he was in the 83rd Division. ... I don't know whether he'd been wounded or what, but he came back and he was in this "repple-depple" [replacement depot] for at least awhile, long enough for me to see him, and I thought this was a pretty good story. [laughter] When we were in Jacksonville, the fellows used to go to the biggest department store in Jacksonville, which was called Cohen's, [Cohen Brothers Department Store]. So, I say to this guy, and I don't know his name, "What have you been doing since you left Blanding?" He says, "Well, I got drunk." He says, "I ended up in Texas somewhere, but I don't know where," [laughter] and he said, "I woke up one morning and there's this broad in bed with me. I looked at her and I said, 'Who the hell are you?' and she says, 'I'm your wife,'" and he says, "'The hell you are,'" and he says, "She says, 'Wait a minute.'" She hops out of bed, goes up to the dresser drawer, comes back. There's a marriage certificate, [laughter] and he's been getting bills from this girl, not from her, but from Cohen's, because she's been going in there and using his name. [laughter] ... She's buying all the nice things she wants; he's over in France. If he gets killed, the darn things are going to be dead, I mean, the bills are going to be dead. I don't know what ever happened on that deal, but that was the only experience I had of somebody figuring, ... if they can do this or they can do that or they can marry somebody, ... their thought was that if they married somebody, and then, they died, then, whoever was the vendor would get stuck for the money that they had not paid. ... Before I left, as far as I know, she still owned a lump sum of money, [laughter] and so did the soldier, but I never saw him again, so, I don't know, but that was in September, I guess, or October of 1944.
SI: What was going through your mind while you were in the "repple-depple?" What were you anticipating? Were you worried?
WSPW: No. There were big card games, and you could write home or you could go to a card game or something like that. There was one fellow who was a captain, I think, and I first met up with him out in Normandy, and he frankly said, "Look, I want to have," I think ... he wanted fifty-thousand dollars' worth of five-hundred-franc notes, and I've forgotten how much he had to really win to get that in his pocket, but, anyway, I never saw him again, so, I don't know. ... I never saw the guy from the 83rd, so, I don't know what happened to him, but, then, after that, I went back up towards Verdun, in the "repple-depple" up there, and, this time, my name was called, and so, I went down with the men that were going down there and I got down there. ... The only thing I can remember ... is that it was after supper when we got down there. Why it was after supper, I don't know, but, anyway, it was after supper, and we went out with [a soldier], and I don't know ... what his job was. Everybody seemed to be [tight-lipped]. Nobody'd tell you what their names were or even what their rank was. They just spoke to you. Well, this could have been a captain, and a captain should have been the personnel man from the regiment. If he was there or not, I don't know, but, anyway, ... I don't remember seeing him. So, anyway, ... somebody tells me, "Take your bag and go in there and drop it on the floor and sleep tonight." Okay, so, I did; woke up in the morning, went to breakfast, ... oh, and they told me to come back to this office. So, I did that. Now, Arry is a little town on a hillside, and there's a river behind it that's come down from Metz, and so, the river is a pretty good-sized river and Metz is about twelve miles up the road. ... So, we get up there and I get into that office and I see, evidently, the same people I'd seen the night before, but, other than that, nobody that impressed me. There's no big brass there, that's for sure. Finally, somebody ... speaks up and says, "Hey, Whitestone." "Yes?" "Come here." "Okay." So, I go over to him and he says, "What would you like to be with? Would you like ... to be with a platoon of eighty-one-millimeter mortars?" I said, "Yes, that's fine. I'll take that," because that's what I'd been in the 65th. So, he says, "Okay." So, the next thing I know, [someone says], "Come on, go with him. He's a captain, go with him." So, I go with the Captain. [laughter] We go across the bridge to go across this little river, start up the hill and I finally said, "Captain? What captain? [laughter] What company do you have in this outfit?" He says, "I'm Headquarters Company." "Oh; what the hell do you do?" [laughter] He says, "Well, we make sure [of] where the Colonel's going to sleep and we have some other officers that do this, that or the other thing, ... but, by and large, we're taking care of the Colonel and we've got to take care of the meals for the staff members, like the personnel officer and ... supply officer," and then, there was one that had something to do with arranging all, you know, "How are we going to accomplish what we're supposed to accomplish with this mission?" ... That's what their job was.
WSPW: Yes, planning. So, I said, "Okay." So, I got an idea. So, we go up in front of this broken down, it wasn't a castle, but it was a big house, and there was nothing over the first floor. ... There were two or three chaplains, [laughter] and they were sleeping underneath the first floor. So, that's where I did it, too, [and] so did everybody else. So, we had at least the floor over us, but they weren't bombing us there anyway, and we stayed there quite awhile, for the simple reason that that was the time when, well, that was October and Patton was stopped, because Montgomery had no gas and Patton wasn't going to give it to him. ... So, we just stayed there for maybe two or three weeks. ... It was while we were there that the men that I knew that were leading the fellow from Alaska and the fellow, what the heck were they [called]? Scouts, we called them [Combat] Scouts, I think, they were there and they were about the only ones that were doing anything. They'd just pop off some shots, and then, pull into a hole and let it go at that. If they had a raid, that was different, but they didn't go on raids very often. So, that's the story of Arry.
SI: Before, you were telling me a story about that first raid that the Scouts went on, and then, you saw them when they came back. Is that what it was?
WSPW: Yes. The Scouts were the ones that went down to that town, which was over the hill from where we were in this big building. ... The one that came from Alaska, he went berserk, so, they took him right out of that job, and I don't know whether they sent him to the doctors or who. ... I don't know.
SI: These are the lieutenants that you are talking about.
WSPW: They were lieutenants, yes, and then, the other one, he was fine, so, he assumed command of them, and we were ... south of Metz. Well, we had to go up to Metz, and I don't know what the Scouts did, if anything, because the Metz [battle] was a big, big fight. I mean, they had at least five forts that were five stories deep around Metz, and they were on each side of the river and they weren't fussy about which side of the river they were on, but they had these beautiful fields of fire. I mean, I'm talking about a half a mile, where they could fire a machine gun or an eighty-eight [artillery], or even rifles, across the darned thing, and we went up and ended up; this is a funny story. First of all, I told you that ... our colonel, he was relieved of his job right after this, because he didn't send enough men to their glory. Then, we moved to a little town in front of Metz, maybe four or five miles out. God, the town wasn't any bigger than (Cauldsfield?), down here. All the houses were against one another, and then, they sent the cows or the cattle out ... in the daytime to the field. So, anyway, one of ... our men sets a fire in the fireplace. The next thing we know, the damn building was on fire, and we've got our regiment in there, that's three thousand men, we've got tank destroyers, that's probably another thousand men. We've got everybody. I bet you there were seven thousand men in that little burg. I mean, if the Germans ever decided to fire at us, they'd have mauled the whole of them. We'd have been dead. So, anyway, [laughter] but they never did. We got the fire out, proceeded with ... our war, as it was needed, went into Metz and had Thanksgiving dinner, and then, went on to the east, towards Germany, which was about twenty-five miles away. ... Somewhere along the line, somebody had gotten hold of some German prisoners who had been in one of those forts, and they asked them, "Did you see that big fire out in front of you?" "Yes, we saw that." "Well, how come you didn't fire back at us? It was a perfect target." "I don't know," he said. "We figured that you were pulling a fast one on us." "What do you mean?" "Well, we figured you had a patrol out there with some grenades that would eat into those barrels and harm the barrels, so [that] they weren't any good, and so, we decided we'd just sit quiet down there, play cards, let the war go on over our heads." [laughter] So, there are five thousand or seven thousand men that were saved by the fact that some German decided, "I'm not going fire at those people. They could have some men up on top of the ground, up here, and trying to kill us when we raise the elevator. So, that worked out, but, the next day, when we left there, I remember watching ... a tank retriever. It was a tractor, like a vehicle that ... moves bulldozers from one place to another. Well, you get over there in France, there isn't much room to go around a corner. I mean, they go around the corner and, the next thing you know, half the wall's gone, and I saw that happen a couple of times, when we got into some small towns. ... The next thing you know, we go through the Maginot Line; I didn't know it. It was up on the hillsides, but I didn't know it, and it wasn't very far from Germany, ... but nobody ever told me that [it was] the Maginot Line and we just passed through it. [laughter] So, now, we're getting up to the hillside and Saarlauternis down below us. ... Probably, the hill is, maybe, an elevation of three or four hundred feet. It goes down, ... [the] road goes down, and then, it hits a nice, flat road going into the City of Saarlautern, and the city had been bombed by P-40s [Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, fighter and ground attack aircraft] ... or P-47s [P-47 Thunderbolt, fighter aircraft], and so, lots of fires down there. Well, I never went down there when the fires were going on, but my company commander went down there, to go find a place for the Colonel and his staff to have a place to sleep and eat and have meetings. ... When I got down there, and there were others down there ahead of me, ... they'd picked a nice, big, beautiful building and it was a building that housed the medical examiner for the county, and [I] went into a room that was twice as big as this and there were shoes all over the place, except there was water, like this, but there were shoes for a lot of people, and none of us needed shoes, that's for sure. ... Somebody went parading through the rest of the house and where the doctor was was upstairs, and they found some things up there, jewelry, china, liquor. The guys came downstairs, to where we were, and they had [this stuff]. Oh, also, the officers got a bottle of gin and a bottle of scotch, I think, once a month. Well, in this place, Christ, we had booze, we had that and ... there was a case down there, a cask, a five-hundred-gallon cask of wine. Well, I looked out in the back and, by golly, there was a three-quarter-ton truck taking that damned cask up. I said, "What the hell's going on there?" So, I went out to find out. Well, the cask [retriever] came from Corps. They were the next elevation up ... beyond the division, and the General learned that there was a cask of ... wine down there. He said, "Go get it." So, off it went, [laughter] but we had the best stuff, and we had that for Christmas Eve. I don't know, he had this wine, and then, on Christmas Day, we had all this nice fine china that we'd taken from the apartment upstairs.
SI: This is Saarlautern.
WSPW: Saarlautern, yes. So, when we finished eating, and probably twenty guys ate, we just threw them [out]. We weren't going to clean those plates up. We just threw them out the window, onto a pile of rubbish. That took care of them and we stayed there; along came the Bulge, on the 16th of December. So, we were going to go somewhere, up to the Bulge, but, then, we got started and we got out of Saarlautern, but our orders were changed and we turned around, went back in, and the Fifth Division, which had not been doing any fighting before Metz, stayed in Metz, and they had come down to take our place in Saarlautern. Well, then, they switched it all around, because they needed some firepower up at Bastogne. So, they said to the Fifth Division, "You go up with Patton and the 95th will spread out where you are." So, we spread out, twice as far as what we'd been doing before, and the 90th Division, which was just north of us, they did, too. They spread out, too. So, there were two divisions spread out where there should have been four. Now, there was a story about [Franz] von Papen. Von Papen was a financier for the Germans, and he had either a castle or a big building up in the hills around Saarlautern. You couldn't see it from there, but, anyway, some GIs got into that, and von Papen had a beautiful grand piano. Well, he may have had a grand piano when they got there, but I don't know how many grenades popped into that thing and they ruined that piano. [laughter] ... They found a cave on his property, and they went in there and they found some wine there, and liquor, too. So, they took that out, and where von Papen was, I have no idea. So, then, the next thing was, the Bulge ended. When the Bulge ended, then, we went north and joined the Ninth Army, ... which was under a man by the name of [General William H.] Simpson. He was the general, but the fighting was over in Bastogne and the Battle of the Bulge was over, probably about, approximately, the 1st of February. So, we went up there and we just didn't do much. We did take a week off and we went up, replaced an English regiment on the Rhine River. Why we took that up, I don't know, but, anyway, we did. We went up there and they pulled back out. We went into their place for a week, and then, finally, we pulled out of there and they went into Holland, which was where we'd gone to replace the English. We ended up in the southernmost town in Holland, and this is an interesting little story. We were just staying in houses there, but this is Holland, this is Belgium, this is Germany.
SI: You are drawing a map.
WSPW: Yes, and this is north. I don't know how far and how far along; oh, there's a canal here. This is a canal. The canal is the Albert Canal, and the Germans, before the war, were asked to build a sixteen-[kilo]meter fort, from along here, along this part, that included Belgium on this side. Sixteen [kilo]meters is roughly twelve miles. So, they built the thing. ... If you're on the canal and looking up, probably, it was up fifty or sixty feet, to the top of it, and inside, of course, there were pathways and little roadways where you could move around, but the Germans had that all figured out, because they had pathways that went into the [roof], and then, they had these paths coming down here. So, the Germans parachuted onto the top of this fort, and the name of the fort was Eben-Emael.
SI: That was in 1940.
WSPW: Well, they named it before that, but this is probably in February 1945, yes, '45.
SI: The Germans had parachuted in in 1940.
WSPW: Yes, probably.
SI: When they took over Holland.
WSPW: Yes. ... I don't know about the spelling here. All I know is that the name of it was Eben-Emael. You might find something in there, Eben-Emael. So, they parachuted down there and, of course, these are all blocked off, with about six or eight feet of dirt. So, nobody could come in by going this way, and then, rappel up, but the Germans came from the top, but, when they got down here, ... they were inside and, when they were inside, they'd blow this open and, with that open, then, they just walked in. They rappelled up and they got into the fort. So, Belgium's great, big expense of Eben-Emael didn't help them one bit, [laughter] and I had a story; you know the stories in a place like Parade Magazine? Well, I had one. It was all in German, and I don't think it's there. I think I finally got rid of it, but my wife's brother's wife was an Austrian girl. She also taught German in colleges here in the United States, but I never asked her to read the darned thing to me, so [that] I knew what was in it, ... but the Germans accomplished what they wanted by getting into the fort, and then, finally, we left there.
SI: Were you just staying at the fort or did you have to retake it?
WSPW: We weren't even in it.
SI: Okay, you just passed by it.
WSPW: We just looked at it or went around it, just to find out what was there. We were up here in this little town and just the fort ... went down to where this junction is, and there were houses all along here, and so, we just took over the houses, that's all. ... I don't know when the Germans got out of there, but, anyway, it was all clean when we got there. I don't know whether there was any big fighting going on there or not, didn't look as though there had been, but, then, from there, I don't know where the hell we went. I can't tell you, off hand. [We were] coming to the end, because, by now, we're in, maybe, January or February of 1945, when the war ended. Okay, let's see, Arry [to] Kanne, Belgium, (Fulge?) in France, and here's Saarlautern, Germany; that was in February. Yes, this town that we were in, along here, was Kanne, K-A-N-N-E. We were in it on February 5th. We left Saarlauternand went to someplace in Belgium. Then, we went to Kanne, which was in Belgium. So, it must have been over on this side. Venray, in Holland, so, we're over on this side. Then, we went back over to the other side of Kanne, again, K-A-N-N-E.
SI: Why would you move back and forth like that? Do you know why?
WSPW: No, I don't know. Well, one place we moved to was ... when we were in the British Second Army, when we went up to the Rhine for a week. ... In March, the early part of March, we went up to Germany and stayed there. ...
--------------------------------------END OF TAPE TWO, SIDE ONE-------------------------------------
SI: Please, continue.
WSPW: These are not very big towns. On March 2nd, we were in (Kleinbrodt?) and there was a great, big bridge across; no, it's Krefeld [also spelled Crefeld], which was a couple of days later. There was a great, big bridge across the Rhine River, and I mean a biggie, because the damn bridge probably went two or three miles, because it went across the river and into Düsseldorf, and, when we were in Saarlautern, there was a bridge that was probably from here [to] across the street, and the lieutenant colonel in charge of the Second Battalion had gotten on that bridge just as somebody else got on that bridge. The other guy was going set a fuse to set off a bomb to blow it up, and the Colonel killed him, but there were remarks about it, that it had been done, blown up. ... The 95th was not going take this big bridge across the Rhine River. So, they blew it, so that it collapsed. I might have pictures of that, but I'm not sure where they are, and then, this Krefeld, this is the beginning of March. That's a pretty good city. The next one, city on the Rhine, is Uerdingen, and Uerdingen had a schnapps factory in it. Well, the Second Battalion got in that and they sopped up the [schnapps], [laughter] and they were right underneath this bridge. So, they didn't do too much of that. Then, on April 2nd, we crossed the Rhine at Wesel, to (New Beckum?) and into the Ruhr Pocket. That was on the 2nd of April. Then, all these towns are small towns, which we went through ... just about every day.
SI: How were you moving through all these towns?
WSPW: Our own vehicles.
SI: Were the infantrymen also on vehicles at that point?
WSPW: Oh, yes. We went through Dortmund. That was on April 11th.
SI: Did you notice if the German resistance was weakening?
WSPW: Wasn't any. There wasn't any, never saw any Germans. When we got into; what was the name of the town? We had surrounded the Ruhr, where all the mines were that were taking out coal and steel. ... You could look across the meadow. There was a little dam there and you could walk across it. Well, you could see, ... about a mile away, there was a forest and, with good glasses, you could see the GI trucks coming down to the edge of the forest, but that's as far as they came. They stopped there and they let these guys, Germans, get off the trucks; so, they did. They'd walk across this field and, as soon as they came across the bridge, they got into our hands, and then, somebody on our side just put them up on the trucks, a truck again, and then, took them off to a POW [prisoner of war] camp.
SI: Do you know why that was done that way?
WSPW: Well, we had nothing else to do. There were thousands coming. They wiped out about; I mean, these guys were all giving up. [laughter] They all had something in their hands that said that they were ...
WSPW: ... No, [that] they weren't prisoners, that they were going home. They were discharges. Yes, you weren't discharged until yesterday. Yesterday, ... you were a fighting man and you had to fight. Now, you're free because somebody [signed the paper]. You know, I could have signed that, though, this fool thing. Then, from there, oh, in May, May 8th, we're in Selm, 13th, we're in Liege. Now, this was just my group that's going to Camp Lucky Strike, which is near Le Havre, and we're going to get ready to go out on the boat to come back here. ...
SI: Where were you when V-E [Victory in Europe] Day was declared?
WSPW: In a town called Selm, S-E-L-M. That was May 8th. Do you want to see that?
SI: No, that is okay. Do you remember any celebrations or how you felt?
WSPW: No, no celebrations. ... Let's see, there were a couple of things I wanted to tell you about that. ... When we were in Krefeld, now, Krefeld is about two miles from the Rhine River, across the river from Dortmund. Uerdingen, the name of the town where the factory was making booze, that's right on the river. So, this is about, probably, two miles from that one, Uerdingen. Well, I had an I&R [intelligence and reconnaissance] platoon man by the; and I can't even think of what his name is. ... He was in charge of the I&R, that's intelligence and recon. ... We're going down this nice, big, not a thoroughfare, but a wide street, in Krefeld, yes, Krefeld, towards Uerdingen, and there's another fellow with him in a jeep and he's got a fifty-caliber gun on the mount, the post mount, and he's shooting that thing at the Germans that are going in and out of buildings. Well, they finally come to a stop and the Sergeant is shot. Now, he, by the way, had an appendicitis, I think, attack and he got as far as the airplane that was going take him to England, to be operated on. Well, he knows what's going to happen, so, he says, "I'm not going to do that, because I'll never get back to where my post is, right here, with the 95th." So, he gets off the plane and comes back. I don't know how he got back, doesn't make any difference. Then, he gets into this fiasco here, where he's just another somebody to shoot at. Well, he's in the jeep, a passenger in the jeep. They are in front of a double house, two doors, two families in there. So, he's sitting in the jeep and he falls out of it and goes into one of the houses; nobody, no Germans, in there. There are Germans on the other side. In other words, you've got a partition, and there are Germans over there. All of a sudden, he realizes that he has left his raincoat in the jeep. So, he goes out to get the raincoat. Well, the sidewalk's about twenty feet long, or wide, and, of course, somebody shoots him again, knocks him down, and he gets knocked down. ... Then, he lies there for awhile, and then, finally, one of the Germans on the other side throws a potato masher, a hand grenade, out next to him and blows him up. That took care of him. ... Some people do things like that without even thinking about it. Sometimes, they think about things and they use their head and they're aware of what's going on, so [that] they don't do things like that, but he did then. We got over onto the other side and the war is over. Let's see if it says anything about when I go to; no, I don't have the date ... that I went to Cologne. That was after the war and ... we were not doing anything. ... Some guys were down at the motor pool and I said, "Anybody want to go for a ride and drive for me?" "Yes, okay," [someone answered]. So, we went. Four of us got into the jeep and took off, and this, obviously, had to be in June, early part of June. It could have been late May, as a matter-of-fact, and we took off, and I had maps of Germany, and we went over to Wuppertal. Well, Wuppertal is the only town that I ever saw where they had an elevated monorail. In New York City, they had the elevated [trains] that were elevated, but they were double track, but this didn't. This had one, and then, we went through Essen. Well, in Essen, that's where the Krupp factories were. They knocked the living daylights out of those. They had piles of brick as high as this room, or if not higher, because it had all been swept away, so [that] they could use the streets, and so, we went on through there, then, went on, went across the river, a pontoon bridge, to go to the Cologne Cathedral, and didn't go in it. I didn't go in it, but going out of Cologne, south [bound], there must have been a highway that was a quarter of a mile wide, [laughter] and I had heard that the 66th Division was down there. The first bridge that we got across the Rhine began with an "R," and I can't remember the name of it.
SI: The Ludendorff Bridge?
WSPW: No, not the Ludendorff, but anyway.
SI: Remagen? [Editor's Note: The Ludendorff Bridge was the name of the bridge captured by US forces in Remagen.]
WSPW: Yes, Remagen. So, I went, because I heard they were down there. So, we went down there and I think we crossed the river somewhere on the way down, and went up on ... whatever the road was, but we didn't find any 66th Division people. So, we turned around and came back, and, when we came back, we came back on the east side of the Rhine and there was a highway there, a superhighway. So, we're breezing along, like this, and I'm not driving. I'm just sitting there, and, all of a sudden, I see a road goes off to the right, not a road, just a little path, but a truck can go on it. I said to the driver, "You better slow down," and, by that time, we were seeing pieces of concrete on the highway. Well, he stopped about forty feet short of where the bridge had been blown. [laughter] If we'd gone another forty feet, we'd have gone flying in the air and been dead. So, we got off the highway there, and then, went back up to Cologne, and then, went back over to Wuppertal and through Essen, but, on the way, we saw these particular; I don't know what color car you'd call them. It was sort of like that green thing there.
SI: Yes, like a blue-green.
WSPW: Yes, and there must have been eight of them and we went by and, before we realized what we were doing, we went by and one of the guys said, "Come on, Lieutenant. Let's go back and see who they are," and I talked him out of that. I don't know why, but I did, but I could only figure out that when, the next day, there was an article in the paper saying that Zhukov [Georgy Zhukov, Soviet Military Commander] had come to Frankfurt, which was just down the line. We hadn't gone through it, but it was there, and that he had come to talk to Eisenhower. ... Well, we didn't go that way, so, we missed that, and just merrily went our way and kind of stayed out of trouble, because, I mean, those stupid Russians could have seen us turn around and decide, "Hey, why are they coming after us?" So, they'd have their guns at the ready, [laughter] blast us, and then, from there on ...
SI: You did not spend much time in Germany before you were sent back to the States.
WSPW: No, no. The war was over on May 5th. On June 16th, 13th, rather, we were in Liege, Belgium, and we were on our way back. June 14th, we were in Brussels and Cambrai. [At] Brussels, we'd stayed overnight. [laughter] I came out in the morning and I'd left my jeep out on the middle of the highway in front of the place. [I] came back in the morning and, Christ, there were two flats on the damned thing, and a kid was riding around [in the jeep] in a US Air Force unit uniform. God, he's been having a merry, old time on the flat tires. Well, we got [the] flat tires straightened out. Then, on the 15th, after we left Cambrai, Cambrai is a town up ... on the Channel and, on the way, we saw bright yellow fields, of what I don't know, but like this, bright green, like that, bright red, like that, fields that we passed on the way, beautiful. Of course, we're talking about June, and we get to Camp Old Gold, in a town called Yvetot, on June 15th. Then, we left. ... We were there for a week. We left there June 23rd and on a boat called the [SS Samuel] Blatchford. Now, that's interesting, too. The Blatchford was a Liberty ship that was built down in New Orleans by Kaiser [Henry J. Kaiser, a major producer of Liberty ships] and they were used for transporting men. Well, they could transport about eight thousand men on a ship, [laughter] and, I remember, we got on the darned ship in the harbor, or, no, in Le Havre. ... The guy that was going to be in my room, there were probably four or five of us, he got in there and he got down on that mattress that he was supposed to sleep on; never saw him for the rest of the trip. He was scared to death, [laughter] funny, but anyway.
SI: Was he just scared of sailing?
WSPW: I think he got ...
SI: Was he shell-shocked?
WSPW: ... No, he wasn't shell-shocked. [laughter] I think he was afraid that he's going to drown, but [the] funny thing about that, that Blatchford, ... we came back in a hurricane and I think it was seven or eight days, and I was feeling fine. I'd go up on deck and watch that ship go bouncing up and down like that, and I didn't even know it was a hurricane. Nobody told me, and we came into New York, I mean, into Boston, and then, I went to Camp; what the heck's the name of the camp? [The diary] doesn't even say.
SI: Camp Miles Standish?
WSPW: No, not Miles Standish. That's not the name. What's the name of the big camp?
WSPW: No. I haven't even got it here, [referring to his diary], but, anyway, one day, I'm talking to my buddy across the street, before he moved. He'd been there eight or ten years, never discussed this. I don't know how theBlatchford came up, but he said, "You know what?" I said, "What? He said, "I came back from Vietnam on theBlatchford." Now, that was a period; I'd come back in '45, '46, '45, and I don't know when the other one was over, what, at the end of the '70s?
SI: Perhaps early 1970s or late 1960s; it depends on when he came back.
WSPW: Yes. Well, he came back [on] that, and we got to Boston on July 1st, and it also tells me that I did go across on the Mauritania, because I was never sure of that.
SI: I have some general questions to ask about your time in Europe.
WSPW: Go ahead.
SI: You mentioned that you were the motor officer and the chemical officer.
SI: Did you have any other duties?
WSPW: Well, those were only taking part of it. I had to read all the mail that was going out, censor it, and take out [sensitive information]. There was one guy who wrote his wife every day, and he tried to get as much information into that letter as he could, and that was a pain in the butt, because you'd have to read the letter, because you knew he was going to put things in there he shouldn't. ... In general, let's say that if the company commander didn't have anything else he wanted [me] to do, then, he'd say, "Whitestone, why don't you do this?" So, it wasn't anything big. Officially, I was the chemical officer ... and the motor officer. Well, I'll tell you something. [laughter] When we were in Saarlautern, [we had] just gotten into Germany, so, this was right after Thanksgiving, early December, December 2nd. A lot of our jeeps had broken glass, and we didn't have any jeep supplies or anything to replace those jeeps, and it was cold. We had snow on the ground and, if anybody was speeding along the highway, it was cold on his face. So, I said, "Well, look, isn't there a bus depot ... or a car barn that they put ... the busses in, down closer to the river?" Somebody said, "Yes." I said, "Let's go." So, I got the armor artificer, and a cook went with me, I remember that, [laughter] and me, and I don't know, somebody else. There were four or five of us. So, we went down to this barn that was holding all these beautiful pieces of equipment, particularly, nice pieces of glass. So, we get down there and the biggest pieces of glass are along the side of the back of the bus. They're half the size of this table.
SI: That is pretty big, three feet-by-two feet, something like that.
SI: Three-by-four feet.
WSPW: So, we could really make out and get a lot of [windows]. Oh, a jeep window was only about that big, ... very small and about that high. So, we saw what we wanted. So, now, you have to take the damned thing out of where it is. So, that's when they got together to take the sides of the vehicle, on the inside, out, get this out, so that we could put it on the floor and mark it, and then, cut it. Everything went well. We got it down on the floor and we're doing well and the armor artificer has a marker for glass. He marks it. Then, he goes like that, and the whole blooming thing shattered; safety glass. [laughter] We put in three or four hours of work to get those damned things out of there, couldn't touch them. [laughter] I thought that was funny. Germans beat us at that one. Let's see what else I got in here.
SI: What was a typical day for you like? What would you do from the time you got up to the time you went to bed?
WSPW: I have no idea. I have no idea, [laughter] did what I was told, if I didn't have something better to do, and I really don't know.
SI: What were your living conditions usually like? You mentioned, a couple of times, that you stayed in houses.
WSPW: Most of the time, we'd stayed in houses, after I got out of that tent. The last time I can remember being in a tent was outside of Nancy, and then, we went from Nancy back up to Verdun, and, probably, I was in a tent then, but the next stop was when I went to ... Arry, was in a house there, or a castle.
SI: What about hot food? Were you able to get a hot meal?
WSPW: Every day.
SI: Every day? Okay.
WSPW: Oh, yes.
SI: How often were you able to get a clean uniform or a hot shower?
WSPW: [laughter] Hot shower. ... I got to France on or about the, let's say, the 20th of August. I did not have a shower until I got, we got, to Saarlautern, and the reason that we did then was because somebody found out that there was a town nearby, by the name of Falck, F-A-L-C-K, which had coal mines in it. So, where you have a coal mine in, you have a room that's about four times as big as this, but there's water in it. ... The men come in, out of the mine shafts, take off their dirty clothes, hang them on a hook, or they pulled them up to the roof, thirty, forty feet up, then, go take a shower, and then, get dressed in their own clothing, go home. So, that was, what, December? Yes, December; so, the answer to your question is, I hadn't had a shower, probably, maybe, since I had gotten off the boat, and, now, it's December. I went to the coal mine to get one. That was it. We didn't care too much for that.
SI: You received the Bronze Star.
SI: Was that for a specific action?
WSPW: No, meritorious service, that I did what I was told.
SI: When did you receive that? When did you receive your Bronze Star?
WSPW: I don't know, probably in the Spring of '45. Somewhere, I saw the citation that gave me that, but, whether it's in here or not, I don't know.
SI: You mentioned that you were shelled by eighty-eights in Saarlautern.
WSPW: Yes, every morning.
SI: Was there any other place where you came under enemy fire?
WSPW: I can't think of them. Usually, the Germans tried to fire on you, but, now, that brings back something else. Christmas Eve, or New Year's Day, '44 [1944-1945], we were in Saarlautern. ... Colonel (Bacon?) got all the cannons, the howitzers, machine guns, mortars, and said, "At five minutes ... of the hour, I want everything to go off at once," and so, he did. So, that was the welcome to the Germans on New Year's Eve. Now, we also; this is of interest because of this Iraqi business. [Editor's Note: Mr. Whitestone is referring to the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal during the Iraq War.] In the middle of the Bulge area, when you're talking about the Bulge starting on the 16th of December, we got a corps order--I didn't get it, somebody else got it--a corps order that they definitely wanted two prisoners a day, because we had not been sending prisoners back. Some days, I'd see four or five of them, but, then, there was none, and it was just because nobody was sending them any further. They got killed before they got any farther. So, by order of the general that sent that down, we now had to keep two prisoners, so [that] they had somebody to talk to. Now, I can't tell you what they got. One of the fellows that talked to them, was an interpreter, he was a Jewish fellow from Germany who'd ... come over to the States in 1938, nice guy, but his job was to interpret whatever they told him and he could do whatever he wanted. He never, to my knowledge, [he] didn't injure anybody or something like that, but he might scare the living daylights out of them, because they didn't know what's going on, plus, the fact that you're getting to the end of the war and, [at] the end of the war, either you got kids or else you got old men. You haven't got any blonde, German soldiers. [Editor's Note: Mr. Whitestone is referring to Afrika Corps soldiers captured earlier in the war.] They've already ended up in a camp down in Texas, a POW camp or something like that, but there was another place; I've forgotten where we were. We were in the Ruhr and I saw a girl going by sort of an apartment [building], and she was going by pushing a carriage. So, she obviously had a baby in that carriage, and so, I went down to the carriage and stopped her. Now, I don't know what she spoke. Whether she was Polish, Russian, I don't know, and I don't know to this day, and I asked her if she had any coat or anything, and any clothes for the baby, and how would I get the answer? I don't know, but I know that, in the closet, I had seen a men's [coat], and there was ... an elderly man walking with her and he could use the coat that was in there, that's for sure. Well, it ended up that I gave them some clothes that I was taking out of a closet, and they went on and they got about a hundred yards away from where I was, [about] a hundred feet, and the Germans, who had been around, [and had] seen what I'd done, chased them and stopped them and took the clothes away from them. Well, I watched where they went and I went and got them again, [laughter] did that three times. I wasn't going to let those jerks get away with that. So, the girl got her clothes and, beyond that, I have no idea where she went. Before that, when we first got into the Ruhr, I can remember, probably, it was just about the time that the war was over; this is a funny story. Our chow line is out on the road. It's right next to a barn, and at the end of a chow line is a pail, like that, full of water, and that's to take your GI pail [mess kit] and ... it's getting rid of the garbage, you see. You can leave in the little pieces of bread or some cabbage or something like that. So, anyway, up the street comes some refugees. Now, we knew that we had passed refugee camps, and not refugee camps, but places where the refugees were working ... in a factory, making something for the Germans.
SI: Like slave labor camps?
WSPW: Yes, and so, they came up and they were going to eat what they could. Well, Bob (Watson?) was the name of our cook, and, as soon as he got up there, he says, "Wait a minute, wait a minute," because there was still food there and ... not all of the men had eaten. He said, "Wait a minute," and, somehow or other, he got ... it to them that they could have it when the men were through. So, they stayed there, and all they had with them was a dish, like that, like a dog would eat out of.
SI: A bowl.
WSPW: Yes, a bowl, and that's what they were carrying to eat out of. So, finally, (Watson?) said to them, "Okay, you can go." So, they went through the line and cleaned out everything that was in it. I can't remember what it was that day, but, still, whatever was left there, they cleaned out. Now, the next step is to clean your GI lunch pail, Jesus. [laughter] Now, in that pail [a drum full of water for cleaning mess kits], they've got some sort of soap to clean it. It's water, but there's some soap in there, too, and, Jesus, they get through cleaning out the food ... where that was good-looking china. [laughter] Now, they're down to, what? this pail, which is a garbage can, with things [heating elements] curled around it. See, they're taking everything out of that, water and all, and there used to be a song by some guy that used to sell funny stories and they had music to it. [laughter] ... It reminded me of him, because, ... with the soap that was in this can, along with the water, they were going to have the cleanest kidneys of them all. I've forgotten who he was, but anyway.
SI: Spike Jones, or someone like that?
WSPW: Yes, it wasn't him, but it was somebody like him. Well, let's see, now, in here ...
SI: Did you ever actually go into any of the slave labor camps or help liberate them?
WSPW: I didn't go into slave labor camps. I didn't go into a place like Dachau or any[thing]. We never got that far. Most of those were in Poland. My sister, when she went over to see Jimmy, and I don't know where Jimmy was stationed, but he took them to Dachau and he took them to one of the other big ones, which was in that area, and so, they saw a concentration camp, but I can't tell you what the name of the other one was.
WSPW: Yes, it could have been. Yes, it could have been. You'll hear the name somewhere, that's for sure. Let's see, what have I got here?
SI: During the break, we found the citation for Mr. Whitestone's Bronze Star Medal. I am going to read it now. "First Lieutenant W. S. P. Whitestone, 0526264, Infantry, 379th Infantry Regiment, for meritorious service in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States during the period 25 October 1944 to 18 April 1945. The extremely meritorious service rendered by First Lieutenant Whitestone contributed materially to the success achieved in combat by his organization. His devoted and skillful performance of duty exemplifies high traditions of the military service and reflects great credit on him." That is the end. That is nice.
WSPW: Yes, well, you can see that I keep it there. The medal itself, you know, they'd say some people go right for medals. The only medal that I have is the Bronze Star Medal, in other words, as a medal, but I don't have a medal for; ... I think I was in four battle zones in Europe. If there was a medal for one of those, I never got them, not that it'd make a heck of a lot of difference. I got the points to get out of there, which was what everybody was looking for. [Editor's Note: Service in a battle zone is recognized with a Battle Star pin that would be attached to a campaign service ribbon and/or medal. Following V-E Day, a point system was established for determining the order in which GIs returned home. Soldiers with more decorations received more points towards being eligible to return home.]
SI: Earlier, off the tape, we were talking about Patton. Could you relate that for the tape? I forgot if you saw Patton or if he just came into the area.
WSPW: Well, I saw him twice. The first time was when he gave Combat Infantryman's Badges to the [Combat] Scouts. The second time ...
SI: That was in Arry, France.
WSPW: Arry, yes. The second time, I think, was; [I have] kind of forgotten. I can't remember. I don't think it was surrounding the Bulge, because we didn't go to the Bulge. So, other people did.
SI: Do you remember anything he said or how close you were to him?
WSPW: No, he got out of his jeep and got in a vehicle, or went in to see the Colonel, and that was it and they didn't tell me what I was doing. So, I didn't know. This stuff here has to do [with when] I contributed to the World War II Memorial. Now, this might be a picture that the photographer in Nancy took. No, it's a graduation program from the Infantry School.
SI: At Fort Benning?
WSPW: Fort Benning, Georgia.
SI: You wrote on your survey that you never used the GI Bill.
SI: Was there a reason for that?
WSPW: Didn't have any reason. No, the GI Bill, I was through college.
SI: You did not want to go on for graduate studies.
WSPW: Never even thought [of that], because I had a job. I didn't have a job. I was going to go [get a job]. My father had an uncle who was controller of General Electric, which meant he was the equivalent of a CEO, [chief executive officer], or a COO, [chief operating officer], or something like that today, and so, I was going to go to GE, in Schenectady, to see about getting a job there, which I did, and I got a job there. As far as the twenty dollars a week for unemployment, I had enough money to get along and I didn't need it, so, I didn't take it.
SI: What was your most vivid memory of World War II? What stands out the most in your memory?
WSPW: Oh, just a lot of things.
SI: Was there anything that we did not discuss that stands out?
WSPW: Any what?
SI: Any memory that we did not talk about during the taping that you would like to discuss now.
WSPW: I can't think of anything, but the things that I think of are the funny things that happened.
SI: A lot of people think about the funny stories.
WSPW: Yes. ... Now, this is not a funny story. The war was ended and we were in Selm, where the war ended, and we had a driver that had just come in as a replacement and he was carrying a .45-[caliber pistol]. Well, you don't do that. He was supposed to be carrying an M-1, as a driver of a jeep, and nobody ever asked him about it. I didn't. I didn't give a damn what he [did]. I guess, I know, as far as I was concerned, firing a .45 is about as worthless a shot as you could do, because you're just not going to hit anybody if you're lucky. ... So, one of the things that they tell you [is], when they're telling you about any gun, they tell you how it works, how to operate it, and, secondly, what, if any, are there any safety mechanisms that you can pull, if you want to, so that it doesn't work. There's one with a machine gun. If you don't do this, that or the other thing, it's not going fire. So, now, we're going back to this .45. So, he's got it on his hip. He's down in the motor pool. It's, probably, somewhere around the 10th, 8th or the 10th of May, which means that the war is over, and so, he's showing the guys down there how smart [he is].
------------------------------------END OF TAPE TWO, SIDE TWO--------------------------------------
SI: This continues an interview with W. S. Peter Whitestone on July 20, 2006 in Dalton, Massachusetts. Please, continue. You were telling me about the guy who was down in the motor pool with the Colt .45.
WSPW: Yes. So, he's showing the other guys, the other drivers and the mechanics, the safety features of the gun and, if you don't put the cartridges in right, and they have a cartridge or case about like that, that goes into the handle, it won't fire unless you do that properly, and I don't know, I can't remember all of them. ... Anyway, the last one that they tell you about, I'm talking about they told us about this at "Benning School for Boys," there's a little piece of equipment right on the end of the barrel and, if you push it in, just a little bit, it won't fire. So, he's going to show these guys, this [soldier]. So, he gets this gun and puts it up against his chest. Now, he says, "It's not going to fire, because there's a safety mechanism in there, right on the nose, that'll keep it from firing." So, he takes it and pushes it as hard as he can against his own chest, and then, pulls the trigger. Well, you know what happened. He was on the operating table for about thirteen hours and died, and he was married. He wasn't that old. He was a reasonably young fellow. He wasn't a teenager, but, ... sometimes, people do stupid things. If somebody had been down there, if, let's say, an officer might have been down there at the right time, [he] could tell him, "Hey, you can't do that. Give me that gun." In fact, somebody, even somewhere else, might do even more than that, say, "You're not supposed to be wearing that," if he knew anything about what the TO [table of organization] was. There was something in this that surprised me. I was looking at it before you came. ... This is a battalion, I mean, a regiment, a regiment of vehicles, and I've got here 265 vehicles. That's one hell of a lot of vehicles, and that's only one regiment in a division.
SI: Were most of them jeeps or trucks?
WSPW: Well, supply had a three-quarter-ton truck, motor pool had ... a three-quarter, kitchen had a two-and-a-half ton, here's a wire truck for the wire people, [who are] going to put out telephone wire, and then, the number of the car, and, also, who [had the car]. Colonel (Bacon?) got number one, because he was number one. Lieutenant Colonel (Aiken?), he was up from Vermont, he was number two. Captain (Compton?), my company commander, number three; number four was wire, Captain somebody, I don't know; ... (Ward?), number five, and another one, number six. The rest of them were miscellaneous, but, then, you realize that when you're talking about how much materiel there is, why, one day, the war was over, or it was pretty close to over, we were out in the Ruhr, going through the countryside, and the next thing I know, my motor pool men are out in the field. "Now, what the hell are they doing out in that field? Well, I'll turn around and find out what they're doing in the field." Well, what they did was, ... they had found and received a searchlight. "Well, that ought to be good, if it works." So, they went down and they found out it did work, ... and it comes with a generator. So, off they go, with their generator and their searchlight [in tow] behind one of their vehicles. The only thing is that when they found out, they wanted to use it for our own equipment, our own equipment was not 220, it was 110, and it wouldn't work. ... After all the work they put into taking this thing off the field, they had to run it back. [laughter] So, that's all I can find in here that I can [talk about]. I had, somewhere in here, pictures of Eisenhower. ... Are you interested in pictures?
SI: Sure, I like to look at pictures. Is there anything you would like to add, any stories that my questions did not bring out?
WSPW: No, I can't think of any. I'll tell you one thing. Yes, I'll tell you this. When I went out, when I left the States, I went out of New York and I was glad to see the Statue of Liberty on my way out. On the way back, I came in to Boston; no Statue of Liberty. There's a tugboat with a bunch of girls, "Welcome home," and we were one of the first ones to come home. [laughter] I thought, "That doesn't compare to the Statue of Liberty at all, not at all."
SI: You got married about a year after the war ended.
SI: Had you met your wife during the war or had you known her before?
WSPW: I knew her before.
SI: Had you gone to school together?
WSPW: No. She was the daughter of a friend of ... my mother. These, I just picked up. ...
SI: Advertising. Was that Yank Magazine?
WSPW: No, these are all; what do they call them?
SI: Patches, unit insignias?
WSPW: Yes, shoulder insignia, and so forth. I've got a nice map of Germany here. ... It cost thirty-five cents for somebody, but I didn't pay it.
SI: You told one story about getting clothes for the German family
SI: Did you have much interaction with German civilians, or any other civilians in Europe?
WSPW: ... I think we were in Selm, and outside of Selm, there was, I think it was a small reservoir. ... Somebody came in to me one day, or night or something like that, and said, "Hey, Lieutenant, there's a," it wasn't a jeep, it was a German car, "is in the water. Can we take a three-quarter-ton truck over there and get it out?" I said, "Yes, go ahead." So, we did. Well, it turned out the people that owned it, let's see, there was a man who was about, maybe, in his middle forties, something like that. He was a doctor who had been injured in Italy and sent home, because he was of no value to them then, and his wife was with him, and then, his wife's sister was with him, and, also, a husband, a husband and wife of somebody else there. ... Anyway, we didn't get to know them, other than that, that we just pulled the darned thing out of the water. ... I don't remember anything more about it. ... Well, we were in the town of (Kanne?), I think I told you it was, right down at the south end of Holland [Belgium?], the man in the house had told us that he had an appointment ... in the hospital up in Maastricht. Maastricht wasn't very far away, maybe twenty miles, maybe not even that far, but it was a big city, and he needed a ride to get up there, because ... he was going to have an operation on one of his eyes. So, we said, okay, we'll take him up there, when the time came. So, when the time came, somebody bundled him into a jeep and off he went, and, as far as I know, everything worked out fine, because we were there for awhile after that. Whenever the cook, Bob (Watson?), had anything left, he'd give it to the people in the town, bread or food of some sort. Well, the day we left, ... he [the homeowner] could see we were pulling out, and the boys had been going upstairs, because ... some of them were sleeping upstairs in the bedrooms up there, and they had their guns over their shoulders and the muzzle was up this way, next to their ear. Well, they were putting marks in the ceiling, with the top, with the muzzle of their gun. Well, he was up there, pointing out all those things, and, Christ, we got sick and tired of listening to him. So, we finally said, "Look, somebody's coming along behind us," I don't know who we were talking about, "but that's their job, to find out what your damage is, and then, pay you." So, I guess that sunk in, because, by the time we saw him the next time, we were halfway up the highway, going. We were gone, but that happened quite often. You know, they thought, "My house is ruined. These are American troops. They've got money. They ought to be able to help us out here." Well, we couldn't do anything. What were we going to do? We had ... weapons of mass destruction. We just were ready to blow things up, not that we particularly did. ...
SI: Could you give me a brief overview of your career?
WSPW: In the Army?
SI: No, when you came back from the Army.
WSPW: Oh, when I came back?
SI: Where did you work and what did you do?
WSPW: Okay. Well, I went to work for "Generous Electric" and I stayed there; I guess I went to work for them in '46 and left them in '49, in the accounting department. I took their business training course, which was accounting. ... I took all sorts of accounting courses, ... but, then, they wanted me to travel as an auditor, internal auditor, and I don't know, but what I had heard was that if you're an auditor for GE, first of all, ... you have to be wherever you're supposed to be to work on the first of the year. Well, we didn't have any airplanes in those days. We had trains. So, if you were going to go to California, it might take you three or four days to get out there, plus, the fact that I'd been away from what I'd call home for three years and I figured, "The heck with that," plus, the fact that I'd also figured out that, unless you want to do something different, you don't go to work for a big corporation, because, as soon as you get out of the rut that you're in, or that they think they've got you in, that's it. You're, "Good-bye, Charlie." Either you do it or you don't do it, then, out. So, I told my boss, who asked me, and ... I said, "No, I'm not going to stay. If you're telling me you can't keep me here," which was a clerk's office in accounts payable, "I'll quit in two weeks." He said, "Well, I can't keep you here." He had about fifty people there, and I said, "Okay, I'll leave in two weeks." So, that took care of that. So, then, I came here, because I thought I'd like to try selling something, and I got a job with a radio station in Pittsfield, which was owned by the Eagle, and I worked for them for five years, pounding the pavements of Pittsfield, and then, I went to work for, at that time, it was called IDS, Investors Diversified Services, and so forth, financial planning, and I did financial planning until I left them thirty-two years later. So, that's what I did. ... Kenneth, he came in just a year or two before I left and started to learn the game, and so forth, and he's doing three or four times as much as I did. He's done very, very well. ...
SI: You have four sons.
WSPW: Got four. ... Let's see, the oldest one is Rob. He's the oldest one there. That's his family, including his son. He's got two sons in there and a daughter, and two grandchildren. Anyway, he has his own business in Randolph, which is filing the proper forms for somebody with a small business that has a retirement plan, or something, that the government wants a copy of, and so forth, and he's been doing that for, I don't know, fifteen years or something like that. Tommy went to Brandeis to play soccer. Unfortunately, he mashed up his knee, between freshman year and junior year, and he's the redhead, up on the top. ... He went to see the media man at Brandeis and he said, "Well, if you want to come into my business," he said, ... "you're thinking of the right time, because you can go to Washington," the State of Washington, "because ... these media people meet once a year and that's the place to go. If somebody's looking for somebody, there, you can see them all at once." So, he decided, in the year between, he'd been writing sports stories for the college newspaper and, also, for the town paper in Waltham, Mass. So, he went out there and he talked to somebody and he kept them busy for quite awhile, [laughter] and the guy that is telling the story couldn't figure out what the hell; the guy was not one that would listen very long, but he was listening to ... Tommy, and, anyway, so, he said, "Well, if he's that interested in it, I ought to be interested in it." So, he was the media director for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. So, he gave him a job, and, now, Tommy is the assistant, got a big long ... [title], but, anyway, he's in charge of the media for the University of North Carolina and whatever goes on in there. Their big sport is basketball, and they play soccer. They don't have a football team. ... Kenneth is here in town, and that's three of them, and Stevie is out in Lake Arrowhead, in California, and he went out there about fifteen years ago, started out with Disney and stayed with them for about three months, and then, he wrote a story which was published and actually came out on the movies, but he sold a lot, but none of it [has] come out in the movies. So, he's out there and, right now, he decided he would help his wife, who was selling real estate in Lake Arrowhead, and they figured that, between the two of them, they can make that work out very well. So, that's what he's been doing for the last year, but, as far as I know, they're all making pretty good money.
SI: Is there anything that we skipped over?
WSPW: I don't think so. You're the one that's asking the questions. [laughter]
SI: I think I have covered ...
WSPW: You covered everything?
SI: The whole gamut of your life, but is there anything you would like to add for the record?
WSPW: I don't know of anything. As far as I know, Shaun, you got everything.
SI: If there is nothing else, I will conclude the interview now, but I will add that you will get a transcript of this and, if you want to add anything to it, feel free to. It is difficult to get a person's entire life down, even going for over four hours.
WSPW: I didn't believe that when you said that. [laughter]
SI: Yes, most people do not think it will take that long. Thank you very much.
WSPW: You are welcome, good to meet you.
SI: Good to meet you, too.
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Reviewed by Matthew Doherty 11/19/08
Reviewed by Tad Stanwick 11/19/08
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 8/5/09
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 8/11/09
Reviewed by Kenneth Whitestone 4/21/10